Craigslist can be a great way to find apartments and connect with potential roommates. It’s easy to use, available throughout much of the world and there are many thousands of people who visit each day, making it easy to reach a wide audience. While there are plenty of legitimate ads on craigslist, there are also plenty of scammers who may post or reply to ads in an attempt to steal money from unsuspecting users. Though the con artists continue to tweak their routines, there are a few things to watch out for when you’re looking for a room or a roommate in order to make sure you don’t get taken in by a scammer.
Most scams originate from outside the country. People overseas have an easier time getting away with a successful scam because it’s practically impossible to track them down later. Anyone who responds to an ad saying that they currently live out of the country should raise your suspicion. Meeting with a potential roommate in person is a good idea both so you can so you can see that they are who they claim to be and so you can get to know them a little before signing a lease. Of course, there are people out there who are legitimately moving to a new town or country. If you would like to entertain these roommate applicants, make sure that you video chat with them a couple of times before you reach an agreement.
Never Send Money
Scammers only make their money when those they scam send them money. One of the most common scams is to send a roommate a check for an amount well above what is needed to cover the first month’s rent and the deposit. They will then ask you to mail them the difference, which will only be a problem when the check they first sent you bounces. If you receive a check for more than the appropriate amount, rip it up; it’s almost a sure sign that someone is trying to pull one over on you. If you’re dealing with someone who isn’t local, or if you’re moving to a new city yourself, don’t exchange any money until you meet face to face.
Beware of Pushy People
An e-mail instructing you to immediately remove your ad and give the potential roommate your address so they can send you a check is almost a sure sign that you’re dealing with a scammer. No legitimate roommate would assume the two of you will live together until you’ve met and talked it over. Be cautious also of roommates who won’t give you information about their employment, current address or references. Someone who gets defensive when you ask about these things is certainly trying to hide something, whether or not they’re trying to scam you.
Trust Your Instincts – If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is!
If you have a bad feeling about a potential roommate, find someone else. There’s no reason to keep talking to someone if you don’t feel comfortable about it. Chances are, if you fell like there’s something wrong, there probably is. For more info on common scams, check out these cautionary tales from RentingOutRooms.
Have advice for cautious Craigslist users? Experience to share? We’d love to hear about it here or on our Facebook page!