Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have to find a new apartment. Apartment hunting and moving are my least favorite things. It can get really stressful and I get grumpy. Surprisingly enough, I’m no fun to be around when I’m a big grumpy pants.
Driving around is one option to finding an apartment, but Craigslist is another really good option. The problem with Craigslist is that you never know who you’re dealing with. Case in point: my roommate and I almost got scammed.
Thankfully, we’re both very careful and skeptical when things seem too good to be true (which they normally are) or there’s something that doesn’t seem right. We found a three bedroom, two bathroom house in Renton, on Craigslist, for about $1700 a month, which seemed like a great deal. My roommate emailed them and “Olivia” got back to us within a day.
She sent a really long email, with some conflicting and sometimes unnecessary information (we didn’t have to know that some couple was interested but then changed their minds, so we were next). She said the house had just been renovated and ready to move in, but for some reason we were able to pick out the flooring and the paint color to some rooms. If the house had just been renovated and was move in ready, why would we be able to choose those things? We were also able to negotiate rent and the lease term, and move in whenever. Again, if we were able to pick the flooring and paint, we couldn’t exactly move in today. The email continued to say weird conflicting information like that. We thought maybe Olivia didn’t have her facts right or something, maybe she’s not the brightest crayon in the tool box.
The part that made us even more skeptical was that she said her husband didn’t want to give us the address of the house because they had other properties broken into recently and didn’t want to give out their address to just anybody. She did say if we filled out some form online (which everyone uses apparently), to see our renter’s history, she would gladly send us the address. Except… Olivia also said that nothing on the form would keep us from getting the place… so what would be the point to filling out the form? We click on the link to the form, and it sends us to a credit check website. I thought she said it was a renter’s history form? Red flags were flying everywhere, with a “this is a scam” flashing sign basically coming out of the computer.
We obviously weren’t about to sign up for a random credit check website when the whole thing seemed fishy. I Googled the credit check website and it ended up being a legitimate website. But the whole situation still seemed a little weird. As I continued my search, I found someone who posted on some forum about getting sent to this website after a home owner asked them to fill out a renter’s history form. She followed up with the letter she got and it said things like: we had a tenant back out so it’s yours, my husband doesn’t want to give out our address because of break-ins at other properties, it has been renovated but you can pick the paint and flooring, the lease and rent are flexible…
We were right, it was a scam. We thought about emailing Olivia back and telling her we weren’t comfortable sending our credit information to a stranger, but the listing on Craigslist happened to disappear.
It’s so easy to fall for scams. I get dozens of emails a week from people I don’t know insisting I download an important document I need to see right away. Thanks to technology, emails usually know what to look for and will list them as spam or won’t let you download the attachment because a virus is detected. If I didn’t know any better, I would probably fall for it.
Scams come in all sorts of ways, so if something seems off, it probably is. Never open emails or downloads from unknown senders. Never give important information over the phone or to an unknown person through any means. If your bank or any other important place needs your information, they will usually also send a letter. They will never ask for personal information over the phone or through email. If you ever receive a phone call from someone saying they’re from an important place asking for information, ask to call them back. Chances are, they won’t let you or make an excuse as to why you can’t, because they’re not the company or place they say they are. If you are able to call them back, you will know for sure you are calling the actual place and it’s not a scam. And it also never hurts to Google anything. Google knows all.