Thursday, June 3, 2010
By A.J. Llewellyn
It's been said elsewhere that truth is stranger than fiction, but sometimes you can't help appropriating a juicy bit of truth and turning it into fiction and it still seems unbelievable.
Last year, whilst vacationing in Honolulu, a very good friend called me and asked if I would check on her holiday house she was trying to rent out. She was back here on the mainland working but she'd put it on Craigslist hoping to rent it. She was really in bad financial shape.
She had started to receive weird emails from people who'd seen the listing on a military site.
"I'm a bit worried," she said. "I have no idea what this site is. Do you mind stopping by and checking on it for me?"
What happened next is almost unbelievable.
My dad and I had planned to spend the day together so I drove us past the house and we were astonished to see a moving van in the driveway. We jumped out, confronting the people moving in. They insisted they'd just rented the place from a guy in Nigeria.
This is just the latest online scam and one that ended badly for the poor family who'd sent money to the fictional homeowner via Western Union. My friend meanwhile was forced to leave her job in LA, return to Hawaii and keep vigil on her home. Turned out the Nigerian conman had rented out the house to multiple, unsuspecting renters until the FBI put a stop to it.
I was astonished to learn how common it has become.
Scammers scan house rental listings, list them on obscure sites for a much lower rate, and scoop in the money.
They get around the issue of no house key for the new renters by telling them to hire a locksmith and the cost of a new key will be deducted from their next month's rent.
Except that there is no legally binding rental agreement. Just a lot of bad blood.
I've heard of a couple of friends whose exes put their addresses on Craigslist and told people to come and take whatever they want. This too is not uncommon.
When I agreed to pen a book for eXtasy's tarot series and was assigned the Judgement card, I thought this was a good premise for a novel.
I had fun writing The Vendetta, much of which is based on fact. Even the subplot of memorabilia verification.
As far as I can tell, scams exist everywhere these days. It's hard to separate truth from fact.
I think setting up a former lover for theft is heinous. Targeting complete strangers is also rotten. But how audacious to heist a house...and in my story, a Vendetta, which happens to be a valuable guitar.
As I wrote this story, I began to worry about the things that are valuable to me. They happen to be - in order - my animals and my laptop.
All my animals are micro chipped and as of last week, so is my lappy. It now has Lojack. so baby, you can drive my car. You can steal it (but why would you want to??) just don't upload it to the Internet or else...you'll just give me fodder for the sequel.
The Vendetta is available NOW at www.eXtasybooks.com
Purchase Link: http://tinyurl.com/26r2ax9