By Stephanie Healey, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – It starts with an innocent gesture; the desire to find a temporary place to stay. Craigslist, a website for free online classified ads that is mainly used in the United States, has a real estate section that was set up for people who wish to find their new home. page for Brazil in Rio de Janiero, web site screen shot. page for Brazil in Rio de Janiero, web site screen shot.

In the Rio de Janeiro page (, apartments appear to be mainly for short-term purposes and often over-priced for the foreigners that are targeted. This under-informed and often pressed-for-time audience has made the Rio de Janeiro real estate section of the Craigslist the source of a new type of criminal: the craigslist scammers.

When people post ads to find an apartment or house, craigslist scammers reply saying that they have the perfect place for them, even sending pictures of the dream home. One of these infamous craigslist scammers has recently scammed fellow journalist Silvia, who had been looking for an apartment in Ipanema or Leblon, Rio de Janeiro.

Silvia had posted an ad stating: “This apartment will be for a very well educated couple. I need a clean, nice, one bedroom apartment, close to the Ipanema-Leblon beach. Please send pictures and prices as soon as possible, I’m deciding today.”

The scammer, who goes by the name of “David Shrum” (a presumed alias), replied in a friendly manner, asking if she had found an apartment. He then stated that he had an apartment that was perfect for her, upon which he described the apartment and even attached photos with well written descriptions; “The one bedroom apartment is located on Visconde de Pirajá, 22 Ipanema Rio de Janeiro. In the living room you will find two arm-chairs, a sofa-bed and a small table. The adjoining, well-sized kitchen.”

Photos sent to represent the apartment in the scam.
Photos sent to represent the apartment in the scam.

Like many other scammers, they ask for a down payment of around R$400 before showing the buyer the actual apartment. In Silvia’s case, he also sent a fake notification from Heathrow International Airport, stating that she would need to deposit a further fee of R$500 in order to receive her documents and new home keys.

Once Silvia realized she was being scammed, she sent out an alert, along with a threat to the scammer, asking for her money back and saying that the FBI would be knocking at his door soon. The scammer replied to this e-mail with a frightening confession: “Hello, I want you to know I am a scammer and I have scammed over 100 people and if you want to see me I am in Nigeria Africa. That is not my phone number.”

Another con artist, known as Rita Codanda, has also been swindling people in Rio de Janeiro. She uses a similar story, looking to sell or rent apartments that are too good to be true. Both scammers say they live in England and both use the same phone number beneath their names: +44702407121, suggesting that the number is a fake, and they work together or are the same person. As a final detail, they both ask for a photograph or a copy of some identification:

“I would also appreciate if you send any of your photograph or a form of identification so as to have a better idea of who you are.” – Rita Codanda.

There are ways to avoid being scammed, as noted bu Jonathan Kendall, CEO, Total Security Solutions, Rio de Janeiro; “always meet the buyer and seller in a public place. Ask for ID, hold the ID while they ‘test drive’ the product….bikes, cars, motors, etc. Always pay with cash, never checks or wire-transfers to come later. Keep it simple and clean. Be pleasant, and expect a problem and you will be prepared for anything.”

A single scammer has proclaimed to have scammed over 100 people, and there are many more out there continuing to post ads in the Craigslist site. Alerting the community to these criminals is an important step to minimize the damage they cause.

“We must alert people and fight these evils. An association with experts and Internet providers, tracking the IP number, law enforcement, would catch and stop the scammers. We can NOT give up!” exclaims Silvia.

Correction: January 3, 2010
This article was first published on December 29th naming David Shrum as a Craigslist scammer without clarifying it is an assumed name.


  1. One can always blame the carelessness of the scammed, but the real blame has to attach to the scammer. This excellent article helps innocent people learn to avoid scammers. Now I would like to know what the Police (interpol?) are doing about catching them.

  2. The names these scammers are using are real people and are being hurt by the criminals/scammers also. They were people that got caught up in the scam and sent their IDs to the fraudulent unit owners, and now are being victimized a second time and even worse by having their names and IDs used. They are being victimized everytime the scammers use their names to scam others.
    Believe me when I tell you the authorities have been notified and are working on this.
    But the REAL names of the scammers are not known – yet…

    Apts: 2BR, R$1500, Copacabana
    Two bedroom apartment located on Av. N.S. de Copacabana 314 Apto. 303 Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro CEP: 22020-001 Brazil. The monthly rental fee is R$1500(including bill,taxes,tv liecence,gas)and the security deposite is R$400 which as you know is refundable provided there is no damage occurrence in my property. David Shrum,

  4. Craig’s List has become the preferred wesbite in the USA for scammers and worse criminal elements. Criminals who operate outside the USA will be difficult if not impossible to prosecute.

  5. I contacted this David Shrum/Rita Codanda person, and pretended to play along (I knew it was a scam after his first email). I told him that I would be happy to make the transfer, but to a bank account…not using Western Union. He didn’t want to give me the information at first, but in the end he did. The bank account he gave me was:

    Account name- Mr Neil Perry
    Bank name:The Royal Bank of Scotland
    Sort code- 161623
    Account no- 11276379

    I also got a scanned passport of “Rita Codanda.” Does anyone know who I should send this information to? This person needs to be arrested!

  6. Its happens with me in London where I looking for a flat….They are from Nigeria and I loose a lot of time looking for flats dont exists…After a english friend open my eyes…THEY ARE ALL OVER NOT ONLY IN CRAIGSLIST…….

  7. There was also hte ‘Bionexus’ property investment fraud in NE Brazil run by Rodney Soares and Jose Santiago……

  8. This guy or girl is active again on on Craigslist with a place on Visc. de Piraja number 24. Be careful! I got suspicious after he said Lagos and did some research and this found this article. I had already given him my full name and work address to send the keys, so like Jim wrote, I hope he doesn´t use my ID now too!

    It was the same scam telling me he wanted to courier the keys. He is now using the name “Borja Martínez González de Lema” with the email

    Thank you for the article!

    um abraço,

  9. OK, so I have report this guy to Craig’s List as a scammer. I also took the information from Christiano’s post and forwarded it to Royal Bank of Scotland. I also notified the person whose name they are using that Nigerian scammer were using his name. We will see if any of this does any good.

  10. I am the ‘real’ David S. This person took my identity and tried to scam hundreds of others, if not thousands. I am from the US, but now living in Rio. I rent apartments, but don’t scam as I am REAL. These scammers have cost me rental cients because of this article, thinking I’m a scammer.
    I’m not.
    I live here, will show you the apartment, and don’t take any money until a lease is signed.
    Don’t just go by the name-as they stole my identity. I have worked with law enforcement agencies in Europe to try to catch them, as well as a couple of posters here. Its hard to do, and they know it. The editor of this online publication also now knows I am real, and not the scammer.
    Please, please don’t keep making me a victim…

  11. Expats also beware of Jose Santiago who operates out of Sao Paulo – he is a greedy ‘lawyer’ who talks a lot of b*** to con foreigners. He tried to charge me $R1000 for a CPF (which is free) and when I found a lawyer that was only charging 1% for a property transaction in Campinas he told me that the other lawyer was breaking the law! Avoid Santiago at your peril!!

  12. Wasn’t Santiago kicked off Was he also doing property fraud? I nearly bought an residential apt in Sao Paulao through him!

  13. Hi, I would also like people to be aware when renting a room or apt in Rio to a Nina Garofalo/Nina Smith/Nina Zilla. She rents low-quality rooms but expects an up-front payment of a week’s rent ($R350) – of course when you see her rooms with decades old matresses, unwashed linen, 3 beds (2 being bunks) cramped into a room etc you aren’t going to stay – but she won’t return your deposit. Just a warning – she also uses Craiglist.

  14. It is easy to confirm the location of the email senders location (their IP address) when they send email.
    Anytime someone claims to be somewhere you give them >24 hr’s to meet you on skype with them holding up a local newspaper dated that day.
    They won’t cause they are not there.
    Anytime you think you have a scammer they will rush you for a transaction, they are not going to waste weeks, if you want some fun just keep engaging them wasting their time.
    There are no unattractive scammers in scam world, they all use pleasant photos stolen from attractive people.
    There are Yahoo groups to report scammers, posting their photos.
    Tell the person you are getting involved with you sent the Western Union and judge their reaction. If they are reputable “mistakes get made” will be their response.
    That’s not what you will get.
    Do not pay individuals without a registered business online.


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