Apartment Scam

Posted by adrionna on Aug 5, 2012 in Information Station |

I was almost the victim of an apartment scam today. I always say that it’s important to keep in perspective the innate goodness that can be found in your fellow human being. Like, for every “bad guy,” there are hundreds of kindhearted Samaritans ready to outshine any darkness. Unfortunately, it’s also imperative never to forget that those bad guys do exist and will take advantage of you if you don’t know some things that would alert you to defend yourself. I’m so grateful that my boyfriend, Cody, has done the apartment search plenty of times before, so when my friend and I found an apartment that sounded almost too good to be true, he verified that yes, it is too good to be true. To those who are apartment searching on their own, read up! This might help prevent you from being a victim of an apartment scam.

The three-bedroom home we looked to rent was being offered for $1,000 in a really great neighborhood in Chicago. We got so excited and e-mailed the contact immediately. Upon introduction, Will Fork (I changed his name) seemed like a stand-up guy: a civil engineer who moved to a different country and couldn’t handle our lease personally. He told us that he has left the home fully furnished and needed to know that we could be trusted with his possessions. So far so good, I thought. Next, however, he needed to know a lot of personal information, including an attached picture of each of the potential tenants. This is when Cody started feeling that something was off. Why does he need a picture of us? Why does he need to know our addresses and what our occupation is? I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but Cody pointed out his flawed grammar and sloppy correspondence, calling it the “trademark of a scammer.”

When we asked to see pictures of the apartment, he attached files that, when opened, were barely bigger than a thumbnail. The pictures also looked very modeled – a move that would have made sense, had he not failed to have someone ready who would have been able to give us a walk-through of the apartment. What would he have done? Mailed us the keys?

Cody looked up his account on LinkedIn, and it didn’t quite match up with the description he gave of himself. He was also in another country. So far, according to hotpads.com, this situation matched two of the warning signs provided by the site:

  • “Unable to show the home- if the property manager will not allow you to see the home, it could be a scam. Never sign anything or send money without first seeing the property.
  • In a foreign land- if they are unable to meet with you, show you the home, and/or must be reached electronicallybecause they are in a foreign land (often England or Africa) doing something (often “missionary work”), it is very likely that it is a scam.” —I actually got a response to another listing from someone who was doing missionary work in Africa and couldn’t meet with me!

The last thing that really convinced us that this was a scam was the amazing price offered for the quality of the home. On other sites, the average rent per month was $5,300!! He was offering it to us for only $1,000. Indeed, hotspots.com warns of this as well:

  • Unreasonably Low Rent for the Area- if rents are hundreds or thousands of dollars below the average for the area, it is very likely that it is a scam.”

After looking over his e-mail one more time, I realize that I have a perfectly set-up e-mail that wreaks of spam:

“NOTE : I’m 50 years old and as I told you, I’m a project manager and my job even if is paid very well, requires that I move a lot and without notice. You can move in the House in the same day that you will receive the keys. The only problem is that I’m already in Manila, Philippines because we started the work, but you don’t need to worry because I’ve made all arrangements to rent the House from here. i would like to know a little something about you. Don’t be offended but i must know to who i will rent my House. Kindly get back to me with the Below information..

*****RENTAL APPLICATION FORM****
( Private and Confidential )

Fill below information correctly…

1)Your Full Name ?
2)Present Address(where you reside now) & Phone ?
3)How old are you ?
4)Are you married ?
5)Occupation ?
6)Current rent payment ?
7)Reason for moving out ?
8)How many people will be living in the House ?
9)The rent fee available now ?
10)How long are you willing to stay ?
11)When do you intend to move in ?
12)Do you have a pet ?
13)Do you smoke ?
14)How many Month or Year Do you want to Stay?
15)Deposit : One or Two month Deposit are required?
16)Occupant Picture?
17)Reference Details?”

If you scroll down to the bottom of this HotPads site, you’ll notice that the questions I was asked are exactly the questions under “Real Example 4.” Crazy stuff, to think I was about to be taken advantage of for being a brand new apartment hunter! I definitely learned that, “if it seems too good to be true.. it (unfortunately) is!!”

P.S. Gotta remember that, for every bad guy out there, there’s a whole website of people who want to make sure something bad doesn’t happen to you! So grateful for that website!

**EDIT**

In case the deal was real, I asked the guy if he wanted to talk on Skype so we could get to know each other better. No can do, apparently. I got a response this morning saying “Thank you for your reply. Please respond to the following questions….” and asked the same questions as before!!

See ya, creeper.

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