Search for Craigslist con artist trying to scam Midlands family - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Search for Craigslist con artist trying to scam Midlands family leads to Houston home

The address in Houston where a Midlands woman was told to wire money . The address in Houston where a Midlands woman was told to wire money .
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

A follow up on a WIS investigation took us across the county in search of a con artist.

In October, we introduced you to April Boivin. When she tried to rent her Elgin home, her Craigslist ad was hijacked and reposted with her husband's identity in what authorities call a "forwarding scheme."

WIS recruited the help of the NBC affiliate in Houston to check out an address where April was told to wire money to.

A news crew knocked on a door in Houston, Texas to see who would answer. The home is where the con artist wanted April to wire transfer $700 in order to rent a home he didn't have the authority to rent. 

"How much do you want to send right now, just let me know, how much you want to send right now?" a man who identified himself as "Corey" asked April over the phone.

When the news crew arrived to the home, the homeowner had no clue what was going on and it was clear the person claiming to live at the address did not.

Since "Corey" used a Google voice account to field incoming calls, he could be anywhere. The FBI says most likely Nigeria or Ghana. We reached out to Google to see how they feel about their service being used this way by imposters.

"Law enforcement has channels with Google to get the relevant information behind a Google voice number following appropriate legal processes," a Google spokesperson said.  

The trouble is local law enforcement doesn't have the man power to hunt down the cyber thieves.

When WIS asked Elgin Police Chief Harold Brown if they would ask Google for the information he told us that wouldn't be fair to ask for the information knowing the investigation would likely stop there. 

April's family was victimized, but she never wired any money and no one else has reported being "taken" by the scheme leaving police with nothing to charge. 

"They take advantage of not being extradited, not being looked at, they know that law enforcement's not going to touch them that they can get all of this money for free and they can drain the financial resources of retirees of unsuspecting people over here," said Wendy Dufford, a FBI intelligence analyst.    

The FBI says 3,000 people filed Internet fraud reports in South Carolina last year.

 "Over $5.6 billion reported in losses, which is huge for such a small state," Dufford said.

Seeing the warning signs is very important, experts say.

On every real estate listing, Craigslist posts "Avoid scams, deal locally! DO NOT wire money (Western Union, Money gram), or rent a unit sight unseen."

The FBI says you have to put the research time in if you use online services.

"Do a Google search of the house to see if that house is being listed in other areas for sale or for rent," Dufford said. "I would run the phone number in Google to see if it's being listed in any other search engines or any other on line ads."

April tried to alert Craigslist to the issue, but it took several days to get anyone's attention and also for the ads to be taken down.

"I filled out two of their help tickets, I never received anything back," April said. "I flagged the actual email."

April is not out any money, but after her story aired we learned others weren't as lucky. 

One woman told us she lost $700 for a home in Irmo in a similar scheme.

To learn how to not be a victim of cyber fraud, visit lookstoogoodtobetrue.com.

To file a crime complaint, go to ic3.gov.

To learn more about scams, visit youreittoday.com.

Copyright 2013 WIS. All rights reserved.

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