A young mom yesterday warned apartment hunters to beware of scam adverts after it appeared that an advertiser tried to cheat her out of more than $2,000.

Josia Wolfe answered an advert for a two-bedroom apartment in Paget priced at $1200 a month —  but became suspicious when the ‘property owner’ would not provide an address and said he would have to send an agent from the UK to let her view the property — after she had handed over a month’s rent and a matching security deposit.

Ms Wolfe, 33, who works for a bank, said: “I had no suspicions at first — but it just started to get a bit weird.

“He asked for my address to send me papers – it was very strange.”

She added that the photographs of the apartment had non-Bermudian features — including radiators under the windows.

The advertisement was accepted in good faith by the Sunshopper website — which is run by the Bermuda Sun — and was pulled from the site as soon as concerns were raised.

Ms Wolfe said the advert was placed by a man who gave his name and said he lived in England and had bought the apartment for his daughter while she was studying in Bermuda, and it appeared genuine at first glance.

She emailed him asking for further details — but was surprised when he did not supply an address for the property.

And he added that the rental would be handled by a UK firm TNT Rentals, who would send an agent from the UK to show her the apartment.

Website address

Ms Wolfe said she went to the website address supplied and found TNT Express was a UK shipping and delivery firm similar to FedEx.

TNT Express is a legitimate UK company, but does not offer property services. 

TNT Express told us they are investigating. They confirmed by phone today (Friday) that they don't deal in property.

A spokesman for TNT Express said: "TNT Express would like to stress that it has no association whatsoever with TNT Rental Company, TNT Company or TNT Rentals, all of which are subject to an investigation into an alleged property scam in Bermuda.

TNT Express has no interests in the property sector either in Bermuda, the UK nor any of its other locations throughout the world. We can confirm that the URL to our website was used without our knowledge or consent."

Ms Wolfe, who works for an island bank, added: “I was lucky and spotted something wrong — other people could be taken in and I want to warn them about this.

“First of all, if you have not seen the apartment, don’t hand over any money. You should not send any money to another country before you know what you’re paying for.

“Him not being able to give an address also aroused my suspicions.”

And she added that the standard of English used in the advert was also poor — suggesting someone who did not speak it as a first language.

The advert, posted on Tuesday, was viewed by more than 320 people before it was removed.

Ms Wolfe said she had subsequently emailed the man who placed it, accusing him of trying to defraud her.

She said: “I explained I was very disturbed that he was trying to scam me out of my hard-earned money — after sending that, I haven’t heard anything else from him.”

The poorly-written initial reply after Ms Wolfe responded to the hotmail address on the advert said: “I wish to rent my apartment to some nice and responsible people and in order to do that I have to know a some details about you (Your name,address, like how many persons are you planning to live in the apartment, for how long, if you have a steady income, etc.). You should also know that I appreciate sincerity very much. 

“Because didn’t had time to find a trustworthy person, don’t have any friends in the area to send the keys I found an alternate solution in order to close the transaction safe for the both of us ,a company who will handle the payment and keys + contract delivery, it is an international company called TNT Rentals,please visit there website.”

A spokesman for the Bermuda Police Service said today (Friday) that they had been made aware of the alleged scam. He told us: “The Financial Crime Unit of the Bermuda Police Service would like to remind members of the public to remain vigilant in their dealings with unknown persons via the internet.

Be wary

“In particular, residents should be wary of doing business with any unknown individual who utilizes a generic e-mail domain such as gmail.com, hotmail.com or yahoo.com and requests to complete a monetary transaction via a third party.

“Scammers continue to utilize local publications as well as local ‘.bm’ and ‘.com’ websites to post their scams — so remember to be alert. Don’t assume that because an ad is published locally or advertised on some of the more popular Bermuda websites that it is legitimate.” n

Suspected internet fraud can be reported by email to fraud2@bps.bm and the Financial Crime Unit can be contacted on 247-1757.