Aikahi homeowner, police issue warning about rental scam

Elene Tzetzos
Elene Tzetzos
Lt. Eric Brown
Lt. Eric Brown

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

WINDWARD OAHU (KHNL) - A Windward Oahu homeowner wants to warn the public about a rental scam originating in Nigeria. She says she and a person who was interested in renting her property have lost thousands of dollars.

Elene Tzetzos says she was stunned when she went to her townhouse over the weekend and found strangers in the process of moving in.

Signs warning of a scam originating in Nigeria now cover the windows of an Aikahi Gardens home. Owner Elene Tzetzos says someone in the African country managed to rent out her property.

"It's disturbing. I'll just say that," she said.

It all started after she posted her three-bedroom rental on, a housing website aimed at military personnel. She says someone took her information and put up an ad on Craig's List, initially offering the townhouse for $1,400 a month.

"These properties usually rent for about $2,100 to $2,400," Tzetzos said. "So when they went at $1,200, I guess they got somebody interested."

The scammer reportedly sent the prospective tenant pictures of the home and other information.

"They sent him a copy of the deed to my house, which you can pull online," Tzetzos said.

The scammer then convinced him the keys were held up in Nigeria so he should get a locksmith and change the locks.

Tzetzos called police after she returned from a trip and found a family moving in.

"Quite frankly, there's nothing to investigate," Lt. Eric Brown, Honolulu Police Department, said. "These people are in Nigeria. We have no jurisdiction. We're not going to send anyone to Nigeria."

Police say the man who was interested in the rental lost about $2,500 in the scam.

"By now, the word Nigeria alone should be a red flag," Brown said.

Tzetzos says she also suffered financially and emotionally.

"The trauma of coming home and having somebody in your house and their stuff was really hard," she said through tears.

Police say last year, they received less than a dozen similar rental scam reports on Oahu. They say always be sure a deal is legitimate before sending your money to another country.