There are many factors in play when apartment hunting as a student: affordability, location, space and now scammers.
A state Attorney General issued a scam alert this week in response to a recent uptick in reports of Craigslist apartment scams from consumers.
The attorney general wants to make sure that students are aware of this dangerous scam.
“We’ve had quite a few folks, who have reported this scam, identify as college students," the alert stated.
Scammers are targeting college students in addition to working professionals and families who are looking for a good deal on rent. He advised to never wire money or send prepaid debit cards in response to Craigslist ads, and to never give out financial information online.
Zack Andres, a sophomore geography major, said having to be aware of scams just adds to the already full plates of college students.
“It’s awful. It sucks because you already have to pay so much for class and all this, just to throw that in there," he said. "Makes life more complicated.”
The scam typically occurs when someone is looking for an apartment or house to rent on Craigslist. The ads may feature homes for rent with a photo of the house. Students have been targeted because they are eager to live within walking distance to campus at a cheap price.
When the person calls to see the apartment, the scammer, or “landlord,” will not be available to show the property and claim to be out of town but still promise a great deal on the rent. The scammer will request deposit money to be sent to another state or country.
“That’s why we say, ‘don’t send the money,’ because if you send the money out of the country you’re not getting that money back.” “That’s why we have to focus a lot on prevention and educating people, because a lot of these scammers operate out of places like the Ukraine, Jamaica, the Middle East. So it gets very difficult for even the federal government to track this stuff down. That’s why we try and warn people as much as possible.”
Craigslist can be a great place to find products or services. However, in cases like this, it can be used to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.
“Protect yourself so you don’t become a victim."
“Part of being savvy users of the internet, is making sure that you don’t give people a check and certainly not to someone who you’ve just met. Make sure you check out the place and if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true."
There are a variety of things people can do to spot and avoid apartment scams on Craigslist:
Ask to see the potential landlord’s ID and record all the information on it, use a browser to search for the landlord’s name after getting their information.
“You can add the words 'fraud' or 'scam' at the end of your search terms."
You can also use reverse directory search if the person has provided their phone number.
Another precaution is to visit the local county courthouse to look up property ownership for the apartment in question.
Scan any provided photographs carefully and to ask, “Do they match up with what you’ve seen in person? Do they look like they all came from the same place?”
If they don’t ask for an application or permission to check credit, then that’s a red flag.
Finally, consider additional methods for obtaining a rental, such as a real estate agent, or rental agency, etc.