Thursday, October 26, 2006

The curious case of the reticent renters

My lovely landlady rents other properties, and I gave her a hand setting up (i.e., I set up) a website ad, email account etc. When it came to accepting payment I suggested paypal, only to learn that she didn't actually have any bank cards (it is such a cash culture here).

Someone contacted her from South Africa to book an apartment for a month. Then a cheque appeared (from a Spanish bank) for almost 5000 euros - we had asked them for a 200 euro deposit. Landlady's bank advised her not to lodge the cheque as it wouldn't clear until the renters had been and gone. And so ensued weeks of bizarre wrangling. Their emails were signed with different names, and they ignored my requests for an address so that I could post out confirmation of booking. The latest email suggests that we've reached an agreement (by cleverly ignoring our previous email), and asks Landlady to send the excess money by Western Union - to Norway! I replied to explain the situation (for the umpteenth time) and asked again for an address.

It's been silent now for three days.

In other news, I moved in four months ago today - it feels longer (although I should, ahem, probably do a bit more sorting out of stuff).


Mike said...

Hey Orls

This sounds like a classic money-laundering scam, or else a straight fraud. While your landlady's prospective tenants may of course be lovely honest people, the situation smells extremely ripe. The cheque they sent may even clear, but even if it does, chances are it's hot. I bet they will never set foot on lovely Madeira - they just want to wash some funds. If your landlady sends 4800 of clean money to Norway or anywhere, she will end up with dirty money at best, and quite possibly an international reputation as a known associate of Osama Bin Laden. I recommend cutting off all contact immediately. Notifying the authorities might not be a bad idea - but from your past description of Madeiran authorities ... I'll let that thought sit.

Of course, I might just be a cynical old financial regulator....


Orlaith said...

I thought it was laundering too (although it took me a while to explain the term)! I will suggest handing the cheque over to the authorities - I did broach the subject, but she said she was happy to send it back to no-renters if they'd just give her an address. It's weird to meet someone more naive than me...

Anonymous said...

Dear Orlaith,
I have no idea if I am doing this correctly as HTML tags (what are they) put the fear of God in me!

Just wanted to say that Mike is correct, this is a scam.

You have given me an enormous amount of pleasure by publishing this blog for us all to read.

I cannot wait to read your book when published. (soon I hope)

Kind regards,

Orlaith said...

Thank you so much for your kind words David. I really appreciate you braving the world of HTML tags to write to me! Blogs can be horribly one-way, so I treasure feedback, especially when it's encouraging!

I shall break the news to the landlady, and see if she'll hand in the cheque to the authorities.

All the best, Orlaith

Orlaith said...

PS - I forgot to explain, HTML is the language of websites, and tags help to format your text. So putting 'i' in brackets before text and '/i' in brackets after will italicise whatever is in between, like this. There are similar tags for paragraph marks, putting text in bold etc.
Easy peasy!