You have a house you want to rent, or maybe you just want a roommate to fill up some empty rooms in your too big house. So you post your ad (along with all of the scam listings) on good ol' Craigslist.
Then the inquiries start to roll in. But not all of them want to rent your place. Some want to empty your checking account!
Here's how it goes:
- The reply makes the would-be tenant sound ideal. She is a research fellow currently on a research ship currently in Antarctica, and cell phone service is sketchy to non-existent, but her email works.
- She is coming to your area to take a position with an international company you've never heard of but it sounds impressive nonetheless.
- She is French-American, and her rent will be paid from her family trust set up by her American father who is living in California.
- There may be some unusual requests, like being willing to sign for her car when the driving service arrives to drop it off at the property.
- She is willing to guarantee a full year's rent, even paying it all in advance.
Recently, I used Craigslist and Roommates.com to try to find a someone to fill up a vacant part of my house. I received several inquiries that were variations on the theme spelled out above on my listings for both sites. Roommates.com flagged all of them as scammers. Craigslist did not.
And I'm guessing they do whatever the folks who want to send you your winnings from the Nigerian National Lottery. They get your bank information then find some way to suck your account dry.
So it's like finding a place on Craigslist - follow the same basic, common sense rules.
- Deal with people locally
- Don't rent to someone you have not met personally.
- Do not give out any of your own personal financial information.
- Ask for and check references, and get permission to order a copy of their credit report.
If you're renting out an entire house or apartment,, using a professional property manager or Realtor to find and vett your tenants is a great risk minimizer.
And however you find someone to rent or share a place with, there is that old test that still applies - if it sounds too good to be true, it is!