Wednesday, July 14, 2010

To fool me, you better be on your game...

I firmly believe that a large population of criminals have the intelligence and entrepreneurial skills to really do well, if only they chose a legitimate path. Mr. Noriko Ike does not fall into this category however.

Maybe it's my background as a former homicide reporter on the mean streets of Chicago, dealing with gangbangers, hustlers and odd characters at odd hours that caused me to be cynical of an email I received yesterday. Or maybe it is just plain old-fashioned common sense. Either way, I smelled a rat and want to let you know about it in case you get approached by Ike or one of his cronies.

Perhaps some Realtors are desperate because of the current market. Hell, I sure can use more sales, who can't these days? However, Mr. Ike will have to look to someone else to be a pawn in his silly game.

I received an email yesterday saying that someone named Noriko Ike found me through and wanted help looking for homes. First of all, it is not hard to find me. Most normal people would go directly to my website, not the huge corporate site. And if they did, they would likely have sent me a message saying "I heard about you from so and so and found you through" So, I guess Mr. Ike wanted me to believe out of the thousands of KW agents, he just choose me because of my smile. Or maybe my hair. Or for whatever reason.

So, anyway, the initial email said (I am typing it verbatim, with typos included) "I am Mr. Noriko Ike a Japan origin I need a 4 bed room single family home to buy, in your city with a garage and 2 bath with or without swimming pool price should be between $400,000 and $600,000 please send me list of home to chose from my address is E-mail:"
(later in the day a friend discovered and told me that is some kind of site where anyone can get an email address, unlike a domain with .jp at the end of it which would indicate it is in Japan at least!)

Ok, first off, this guy did not indicate what city he was looking in. Yes my office is in Park Ridge, but I work in Norridge, Park Ridge, Chicago, Harwood Heights, Elmwood Park, etc. etc. Second, no one writes "with or without swimming pool." Alarm bells went off in my head right away and I probably should have just deleted the email. Just for fun however, I emailed him some listings in Park Ridge. I also sent an email asking for him to be specific about what city he wanted to look in, to which he responded "I am not too familiar with the area that is why I need your help as the real estate professional, please send me property to chose from in a nice and quiet community I am going to live in the home with my family." Interesting that he did not name a city. Also, interesting that he said he was going to live with his family because the next morning he sent another email, thanking me for sending some listings and letting me know he would be putting a cash offer on one of them because he "loves the curb appeal." I always love how someone who pretends he doesn't know English well suddenly is down with specific lingo like "curb appeal."

He explained in his second email that he wanted a contract in "docusign format" to sign and return immediately as this would be his retirement home and it would be a "cash buy". He said he wanted to close on August 15 and wanted to put down $5,000 as earnest money. He added another point that I'm not clear about -- "additional $150,000 should be put aside towards the closing but not to be added on the contract until all closing payment are completed." Ok, whatever you say free-spender!

His email said his legal name is Noriko Ike of 2000 Sheppard Avenue in Toronto Canada and that he is single. Single? I thought he was buying the home to live with his family? Ok, maybe his parents you say...

He explained that he wouldn't be in Canada before the closing date to wire funds to "my" attorney and asked for my attorney information for "a check to be drawn to give enough time for check clearance since I won't be in Canada to wire funds for closing."

Mr. Ike then explained that his "account manager" Mr. Perry Owen will issue payment in US funds of $155,000 for the earnest money and the down payment for the property payable to my attorney and that Mr. Owen could be reached at (905) 598-5943. DOWN PAYMENT? I thought it was a cash buy! lol

He then requested the "closing law firm" name, address, phone and lawyer's name.

I didn't respond for a few hours because I had real clients to work with, but I did mention the situation to a friend of mine who is a realtor in Boston. She told me that it sounded like an email that someone in her office received a couple days ago. She searched and found it, sending it to me. It had the same language and asked for a home "with or without swimming pool" in the price range of $450,000 - $750,000. Instead of Mr. Ike, it was from some clown named John Micheal.

As for Mr. Ike, I shot him another email asking for a phone number, which his provided as +81338873121, which he claimed is a Japanese number. While I didn't call Mr. Ike, I did call the listing agent of the property that he claimed to be interested in and told her the situation. I told the listing agent not to be excited and that this guy was likely a fraud, but that if he wasn't I would present an offer. She said go ahead and play along and let's see what happens. Well I got busy with real work again and put my detective work to the side for another couple hours. Later, when I got a moment, I Googled Mr. Ike's name and several alerts were issued. Click here for one of them. It basically explains how his scam works.

I ended my correspondence with Mr. Ike with a final email, advising him to use different language and maybe a different name on his future attempts. I told him not even Donald Trump would buy a home to "live in" without seeing it first and wished him well in his thievery. Needless to say, I do not expect to hear back from him again.

I decided to post this in case anyone reading this gets a similar email.

Unfortunately fraud is one industry that never really has a recession. So, keep your eyes and ears open and as they said on Hill Street, be careful out there!

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Matt Sarver - Keller Williams Realty said...

I just got the same e-mail and exact scenario from Mr. Ike. I am in Charlotte, NC with Keller Williams Realty. I was very sceptical too and researched it first before doing paperwork, etc. Thanks for the post! Matt Sarver Keller William Realty 704-506-2323

Anonymous said...

Cathy Hotta - Keller Williams Realty in Honolulu, HI

I also received a similar email from a Yukio Ishikawa. Thanks for getting the word out to be alert!!

Robert Chiarito said...

No problem Matt and Cathy. Please let your colleagues know to be alert!