Scams are usually easy to spot.
They promise a whole lot of something for a whole lot of nothing. It can be a counterfeit product, cheap pills to make things bigger/smaller or a pyramid scheme. All of them waiting to sucker somebody out of something.
I’m a pretty intelligent (and surprisingly handsome) guy who can usually spot a scam a mile away. However, my Scam Radar was off when my girlfriend sent me a listing on Craigslist for an apartment rental.
$900 / 3br - Beautifully maintained, water front rental with two car parking, three (Milford, NH)
Seemed legitimate. We have been planning on moving to a bigger place and the rental was located right off of the Milford Oval. Then came the catch.
Apparently the “couple” who was offering the rental were off on a trip to West Africa with the
“FAMILY LIFE AND HIV EDUCATION AND THE HIV PREVENTION FOR RURAL YOUTH PROGRAM.” They would be away for a few years and wanted to rent out their home for some extra cash.
A bit of an odd situation that didn’t immediately raise any alarm. I would try the same thing if I was spending time away from my home. We filled out an application and explored the opportunity a bit further.
That is when things started getting fishy.
I knew something was up when they said they didn't have any photos to share of the home. There was no way to check our the interior, they said, even though the rental was right down the street from where I currently live.
Then came questions asking me how many months of rent we could pay in advance, and if we would be able to pay for the keys to ship from Africa. Red Light. Hold on a minute. Do not pass go.
My girlfriend and I are smart cookies and know things a wrong when somebody on the internet is making odd requests to send/receive money. A quick Google search confirmed our suspicions.
Apparently this rental scam can be found in communities across the country. Foreign scams are usually easy to spot, but in they are cloaking themselves on a local level.
I don't even know if that rental house has real people in it right now. I've driven by it and am not really sure, but it would have been an awkward move-in day if so. Here is how that would go:
Me: Excuse me. What are you doing in here?
Homeowner: I live here. Why is there a U-Haul truck outside?
Me: Aren't you supposed to be in West Africa? Helping out with AIDS and all that?
Homeowner: Nope. I hate traveling and foreign countries. I am also an alcoholic who loves Bud Light, which I am currently drinking.
Me: I just got scammed didn't I?
Me: Hand me one of those Bud Lights.
Thankfully we weren't even close to sending them any money, but it is scary to think that somebody so far away is trying to scam on my home turf. It was just crazy that I could SEE the house they used as scam bait, which cannot be said for many other nefarious schemes.
The “globally-conscious couple” wrote the phrase “God Bless” at least a thousand times during our brief email exchange. If I ever meet them I will have something QUITE different to say...Have you come across a scam on Craigslist, or other online website? What was your experience? Share your story in the comments.