As much as I want to believe in the good of all people in the world, especially the good of those people who want you to write a rather large check to them, you have to admit to yourself that there are enough people who are willing to take advantage of you, and run off with your hard-earned money. It sucks. A terrible scam happened to this young woman recently, and can happen to anyone.
Looking at Craigslist or other classified sites has its benefits, such as avoiding fees, moving into an established home, or perhaps renting directly from a family-owned (rather than company-owned) property, but many take advantage of these posting services.
If an apartment looks like it’s too good to be true, assume it is. You should know the price range for the type of apartment you’re looking for in your neighborhood, and anything a few hundred dollars under the average listings sends an immediate red flag.
I’ve been tempted more than once to contact those who have listed $1200/month properties in my neighborhood where a comparable apartment would cost $2000, yet I’ve never seen an apartment in that range, and at best been asked for personal information. Not great.
Here are some red flags in the listing that you should avoid:
1) Owner out of town/country (for work, volunteering, with sick family, whatever, it’s not legit…)
2) Owner says he/she will ship the keys to you (no, you want them to be handed to you personally.)
3) Owner says you are the perfect renter or his/her #1 choice. Sorry, no– the rental market is huge, they’d find someone else.
4) Owner misspells common words, uses strange punctuation or Odd Capitalization
5) Owner says all utilities are included.
6) Owner says he wants you to fill out a credit application to get your credit score and it includes a link to some site,
Most importantly, if the owner asks for a deposit before you see the apartment, or for money when you come to visit the apartment, opt out. You will never see that money again.
Legitimate apartments have an application procedure, be sure to ask about this before visiting the apartment. Even if you’re handed keys, know that fake keys are given out as a con– they may not work for the false apartment you’re being led to. Perhaps this person made a copy of keys at a place he/she subletted or perhaps he/she lived there earlier and then the locks were changed… You can never be too cautious, and unfortunately, paranoid.
And be sure to look up the provided address on Google Maps. It’s possible the apartment you’re being led to doesn’t even exist…
Best of luck in finding your new place, and be cautious!