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New Serial Thief in Germany
Posted March 19th, 2011 - 10:27 pm by from Lima, Peru (Permalink)
A post by CS member POLYGLOT:

I have waited to see how events unfold before posting this hoping discretion could lead to having this criminal jailed. But it has now become clear that this is not about to happen. It is now time to do the next best thing: warn potential victims not to fall for the scam:

A German CouchSurfer has created multiple fake profiles over the past weeks and then stolen cameras, laptops, harddrives and other items from trusting hosts.

He goes by many fake names: Dominik Schreiber, Chris, Christian Wald alias ONLYCHRIS, ...

Some of his couch requests go like this, always in German so far:

----------------------------------------------------------

"Hey xxx =),
mein Name ist Dominik und ich komme aus München.
Ich fange ab dem Sommersemester an in Mainz Sozialpädagogik/Erziehungswissenschaften zu studieren, eine Wohnung suche ich aber in Wiesbaden weil mir die Stadt zum "leben" viel besser gefällt =).
Ich habe ab heute Wohnungsbesichtigungstermine und noch Termine mit meinem zukünftigen Arbeitgeber.

Ich bin noch neu bei Cs, habe aber schon ein wenig Erfahrung damit durch Freunde von mir.

Also meine Frage an dich: Ist deine Couch für heute oder morgen noch frei?

Ich hoffe das es nicht zu kurzfristig ist.
Aber ich gebe dir wegen der Kurzfristigkeit einfach mal meine Nummer 015781325528. [this is an Aldi Simcard, which he keeps changing]

Würde mich über eine Antwort freuen.

lg Dominik"

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"Hey,
ich hätte eine Frage an dich ich weiß das es sehr kurzfristig ist, aber aus welchen Gründen auch immer hat mir mein Hoster von CS vor 1 Stunde abgesagt und ich sollte heute bei ihm schlafen.

Ich finde es echt schade, weil ich bei CS noch ganz neu bin aber schon viele gute Erfahrungen mit dem surfen über Hospitality Club gemacht habe.

Naja also, wäre deine Couch für heute Abend noch frei?
Wäre super wenn du mir antworten könntest.
liebe grüße Chris"

----------------------------------------------------------

This guy is an experienced liar and scammer and he knows that very little can happen to him since the monetary value of what he steals from each host is below what would keep him in jail, or even get him indicted (although losing thousands of photos etc. is a nightmare for the victims).

One host who had been warned via group posts was able to have police there when "Dominik" arrived. They took him to the police station where he escaped, so he is back out there looking for the next victim.

Here is a description:

About 1.75 - 1.80 m tall,
About 20 years old,
Young childish face,
Brown short hair, gelled to the side, about 4cm long
Metrosexual, that is to say: he puts much emphasis on his outward appearances
Inconspicuous appearance
Slim, about 75kg
Had a black, medium-sized gym bag (inconspicuous),
No piercing nor Tattoos,
No scars,
No noticeable accent, even though he claimed to be from Hamburg

He said, he's born in Aachen and served in the Bundeswehr (German military).

If you receive a suspicious couch request which you believe could come from this guy, please forward it to me and to Contact Us (category "problems with another member") with the profile link so that the appropriate action can be taken.

The main discussion of the issue is here:

http://www.couchsurfing.org/group_read.html?gid=200&post=7817216

CouchSurfing's Member Dispute and Safety Team has acknowledged that it is aware of the issue and prepared to inform German members as soon as they have talked with German police about this recommendation made by police. So at least all members in Germany should receive a warning in their inbox soon.

My advice:

If you receive a couch request from a new, rather empty profile without trustworthy references, as nicely as the request may be written, be extra careful and take extra precautions over a normal hosting situation if you decide to host such a member. This can include getting a copy of an ID document and asking lots of questions. If there is no clearly identifiable photo on the profile, don't host. Otherwise, on arrival, make sure it is the same person.

It is always a good idea to make backup of all your important files and to keep that backup and anything that cannot be replaced separately in a really safe place. And don't leave especially such a surfer alone in your home with access to anything that is valuable to you and to him.
Also, make some good photos with your guest on the first day. None of the previous victims did that so that we can still not show you what this one looks like (although Darmstadt police seems to have a photo).

And if you have stuff stolen, or even if someone just tries, go to police and fie a complaint, and if there is a chance that it could be the same person, make police aware of the ongoing investigation so that they can coordinate with their colleages in Darmstadt, Heidelberg, Mannheim and Wiesbaden.

Follow your instincts: If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. If you are asking yourself "should I host this person", don't.


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Report! Posted March 12th, 2011 - 11:04 am by POLYGLOT from Paris, France (Permalink)
The thief has struck again, this time under the fake name "Leon Weile" in Bremen where he stole money
from a 23-year old female host using the same approach. He was her
second guest. German police again seems to be very reactive, doing even
finger print and DNA analysis of the evidence he left behind. 4 weeks
later we are still waiting for CouchSurfing to warn the CS community in
Germany. Please spread the word in your local German groups.

This information has also been posted in these groups (as they have more members new updates might be published also there):

"CRIME, crimen: ROBBERY & Swindle, ROBO & Estafa, VOL & Arnaque... IN CS"
http://www.couchsurfing.org/group.html?gid=10209
Post:
http://www.couchsurfing.org/group_read.html?gid=10209&post=8323920

And also in the group:
"For safer Couchsurfing"

Thanks,

Ulises

Posted March 31st, 2011 - 8:01 am by from Lima, Peru (Permalink)
CouchSurfing has started to send out a warning to members in Germany, in German:

"Sehr geehrte CouchSurfer,

vor Kurzem hat ein junger Mann, der sich als CouchSurfer ausgab, gezielt Gastgeber kontaktiert, um diese zu bestehlen. Daher würden wir Dich gerne darüber informieren, wie Du Dich effektiv vor Ihm und Personen seinesgleichen schützen kannst.

In diesem speziellen Fall suchte der Täter gezielt nach Last-Minute Gastgebern. Er erstellte Profile unter falschen Namen und ausgedachten Angaben, um Mitglieder zu kontaktieren und diese - sobald er allein gelassen wurde - zu bestehlen. Er ist zwischen 1,75-1,80 Meter groß, wiegt ungefähr 75kg und scheint ca. 20 Jahre alt zu sein. Er hat blaue Augen und kurzes Haar, ist Deutscher und spricht ohne hörbaren Akzent. Mitglieder, die ihn kennenlernten, beschreiben ihn als gut gekleidete und unauffällige Person, ohne sichtbare Narben, Piercings oder Tattoos. Bislang schlug er in Karlsruhe, Bremen, Wiesbaden, Mainz, Norderstedt und Nürnberg zu.

Unser Team steht in engem Kontakt mit der Deutschen Polizei und wir hoffen, dass der Mann in kurzer Zeit gefasst werden wird. Dennoch ist es bis dahin - wie auch generell - wichtig, vorsichtig zu sein. Um Dich selbst zu schützen, beachte stets folgende Dinge:

Sei besonders vorsichtig beim Akzeptieren von Last-Minute CouchRequests. Ein Dieb könnte einen Notfall vortäuschen um Deine Sympathien zu erschleichen. Treffe Deine Entscheidung nicht unter Zeitdruck, lese Profile immer aufmerksam. Wenn Du irgendwelche Zweifel hast, ist es OK, nein zu sagen!

Schaue nach Referenzen für Hosting und Surfing Erfahrungen. Eine Referenz nach einem Treffen auf einem Event ist eine nützliche, aber im Vergleich zu einer Referenz nach einem Hosting oder Surfing weniger relevante Information.

Wenn das Mitglied nicht verifiziert ist, prüfe seine Identität. Nur komplett verifizierte Mitglieder (erkennbar an dem grünen Häkchen im Profil) haben ihre Identität von CouchSurfing prüfen lassen. Wenn ein Mitglied nicht verifiziert ist, ist es vollkommen OK, nach dem Reisepass zu fragen, um zu überprüfen, ob die Namen übereinstimmen. Wenn Du möchtest, kannst Du Dir die Daten auch aufschreiben.

Wenn möglich, kommuniziere immer durch CouchSurfing Nachrichten. Diebe könnten die Kommunikation über Telefon oder Email bevorzugen, um die Erkennung durch unser Team zu erschweren.

Aktualisiere Dein CouchSurfing Sicherheitswissen. Lese unsere Sicherheits und Tipp Seiten um mehr Informationen für sicherere Entscheidungsfindung zu erhalten.

Bitte denke daran, dass diese Art von Situationen extrem selten, aber nicht ausgeschlossen sind. Die unglaubliche Großzügigkeit und Freundlichkeit, die die Mitglieder dieser Community miteinander teilen, motiviert faszinierende Personen aus der ganzen Welt der Seite beizutreten -- und spricht in seltenen Fällen auch Menschen an, die daraus einen Vorteil ziehen wollen. Auch wenn dieser bestimmte Dieb gefasst sein wird, ist es wichtig aufmerksam zu sein und Vorkehrungen zu treffen. Wenn Du glaubst, dass du von dem beschriebenen Dieb anvisiert wurdest oder anderweitige Informationen über die Person hast, kontaktiere uns bitte"

I highly appreciate that this warning has finally been sent, after 2 months, over 200 forum posts and many messages to MDST and management. I am overall quite happy with the message. It should protect German members significantly better. I wished they had taken up my offer to comment on it beforehand. I would then have made the following suggestions:

1. Mention the importance of a photo on the profile on which the member is clearly recognizable.

2. Explain how to contact MDST (via Contact Us, category "problems with another member". A lot of people don't know that. And to file a police report immediately and to send it to safety@couchsurfing.org.

I believe such a warning would be very helpful in the safety section of the website (which I expect to become easier to find in the menu).

(CS Polyglot posted this in the group "for safer couchsurfing")

Posted March 31st, 2011 - 8:02 am by from Lima, Peru (Permalink)
CS warning in English:

"Dear CouchSurfers,

Recently, a young man posing as a CouchSurfer has been targeting hosts in Germany in order to steal from them. We'd like to share some information to help you protect yourself against this man, and others like him.

In this case, the man has been specifically targeting last-minute hosts. He has been creating fake profiles and using them to contact members, and then stealing valuables when he is left alone. He is about 1.75 - 1.80 meters (5'7" - 5'9" feet) tall, weighs about 75 kilograms (165 pounds), and appears to be about 20 years old. He has blue eyes and short hair. He is German and he speaks without a noticeable accent. Members who've encountered him describe him as well-dressed and generally inconspicuous, without visible scars, piercings, or tattoos. He has so far committed thefts in Karlsruhe, Bremen, Wiesbaden, Mainz, Norderstedt, and Nuremberg.

Our team is currently in contact with German police and we hope the man will be apprehended very soon. However, it's important to be careful until then -- and always. To protect yourself, always keep these things in mind:

- Be extra careful when accepting last-minute CouchRequests. A thief may claim an emergency to try to gain your sympathy. Don't rush to a decision. Read profiles carefully. If you have any doubts at all, it's OK to say no!

- Look for references from hosting or surfing experiences. A reference left after meeting at an event is useful information, but it's not as relevant as one left by someone who hosted or surfed with the member.

- If a member isn't verified, check their identity. Only fully verified members (you can spot them by the green checkmark on their profile) have had their identity checked by CouchSurfing. If a member isn't verified, it's OK to ask to see their passport so you can see that they're using their real name. If you like, you can even write down their information.

- When possible, always communicate through CouchSurfing messages. Thieves may prefer to communicate by phone or email, to make it more difficult for our team to detect them.

- Brush up on your CouchSurfing safety knowledge. Read our safety and tips pages for more information about making safer decisions.


Remember, these sorts of situations are rare, but they do happen. The incredible generosity and kindness that members of this community share with one another attracts amazing people from all over the world to join us -- and on occasion it can attract someone who's looking to take advantage. Even once this particular thief is caught, it's important to always stay aware and exercise precaution. If you believe you may have been targeted by, or otherwise have information about, this particular thief, please contact us.

Kind Regards,

The CouchSurfing Team"