Foreign Frauds: Don’t Get Taken for a Fool

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Trust your intuition. It will not lead you astray. When the mind takes over and tries to rationalize, you know something is up.

As previously stated, finding an apartment in the summer in Santiago in the middle of a boom in housing demand is not easy. Many places are for sale instead of rent or simply over-priced. I’ve decided to wait until March once school is back in session and everyone goes back to work. Competition will drop.

I gotta say it again: check out the people who run hotels or real estate companies when renting a house for a year or even a beach house for a week. Get their full names, addresses and RUT (I.D. number all people in Chile have to do any official business) by getting a photocopy of their carnet, or ID card – even babies have them, which is weird. People take advantage of the ease of international communication and sending money online coupled with the fact that a lot of foreigners are more trusting than Chileans and they will try to rob you. Clearly, it’s a small percentage of people, but enough to merit a warning.

I almost got taken this week. I found an apartment that I liked quite a bit. It wasn’t perfect, but I have been feeling pressure to get a new, larger place because my mom and a few other Wisconsin folk will be here in a few weeks so I sent in the required documents. The woman named Patricia Villalobos said everything was in order, we make enough money to pay for the place and was in a big hurry to seal the deal. She called on Saturday to have Marcela see it and really wanted us to give her the deposit money (2 months rent totaling about 12 hundred dollars) and she’d give us a receipt. On Monday we’d sign a contract at the notary. That’s just weird so we said we’d rather wait until we have the contract in hand. She keeps pushing because next weekend is her birthday and she wants to spend it at the beach. Also, she says she needs the money up front in order to pay the painters this week and give us the keys by Friday. The bills for the place weren’t in her name. Also weird if she is the owner.

Monday rolls around and we were supposed to meet her today and sign the contract etc. She asks us to call her because she doesn’t have any money on her cell phone. Oh, really. After a speech about how much money she makes in real estate and working with foreigners and blah, blah fucking blah she can’t put two bucks on her phone? Her cheap business card says she runs apart-hotels. Her email is a gmail address. For her business? Another tell-tale sign. She says Marcela and I could work with her in real estate and that she doesn’t tell just anyone about this opportunity. It gave me a flash-back to American Hustle that I saw the other day. She emailed to say she wants 12 months of checks. She had never mentioned that before. I was recently told that sometimes the bank doesn’t pay attention to the dates on checks and cashes them ahead of time. Um. No thanks.

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We decided to investigate her and her website doesn’t exist at all. Now we know we’re dealing with a liar. So we call her and she starts saying she isn’t sure if we make enough money to pay for the place and all sorts of back-pedaling. That’s when it hit that she didn’t want to make the deal now that it was a business day and we could actually sign an official contract. I asked for her second last name, and she gave a nervous laugh, answers me and says I’ll have all her information when we sign and blah blah… I cut her off and told her I think she is a fraud. A friend works at the bank used her full name to find her in their system. She has a loan out for 50 million pesos, a decent chunk of change and hasn’t been paying it. It looks like she may be using her apartment to con people out of deposit money and then never shows up when it’s time to sign. You may think it’s odd that someone can buy an apartment, not pay the mortgage and still hang onto the house, but it’s been a real problem here. There is a housing subsidy designed to help the middle class purchase property and it has to go through the government’s bank and there has not been enough transparency or compliance with the loan stipulations. Another scenario is that this apartment isn’t even hers and she and the door guy are in cahoots. There are many possibilities really.

I had a feeling about this lady, but my monkey mind was telling me to ignore it because I really want to be done looking for a place. Marcela had the same feeling. Thankfully we figured it out before we parted with our savings.

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