How to Avoid Getting Scammed on Craigslist

Now that things have settled down in my life, I’d like to share a story that happened a few weeks ago while we were apartment searching in Chicago. My boyfriend found an ad for an apartment on Craigslist that looked absolutely perfect – a sublet in the heart of the city, all expenses paid, $1500/month. Washer/dryer in unit, study room, huge, spacious rooms, FULLY FURNISHED, allowed short-term leases, and a gorgeous view overlooking the city… also pet-friendly, which was HUGE for me because I wanted to have my animals with me.

My boyfriend had been contacting the woman via email through her ad on Craigslist, so responses were slow. Apparently, she was a nurse who was assigned to an ’emergency contract’ in San Francisco and had to abruptly fly out of town for an extended period of time. She wasn’t able to show us the apartment because she was already out of town, and her apartment complex building wouldn’t show us the apartment because she was doing a ‘private sublet’ and not one through the agency. She assured us that the apartment looked exactly like the images… I still wasn’t convinced, but I was excited because the apartment was literally picture-perfect (a red flag). Anyways, my boyfriend was out of the country at this time, so I had him give me her contact information so my mom and I could contact to discuss other things with her. I emailed her first thing on Saturday morning, and we didn’t hear back from her until later that evening, because ‘she had been working all day’. She gave me her phone number and I sent a quick text, asking what the address was (up until this point, we had no idea where the place was located). She gave us a generic address downtown, which was another red flag for me. When I google-searched it, it was a huge apartment skyscraper in the middle of the city. There’s no way those apartments would have been all expenses paid $1,500/month. She also told me that if we were interested in the unit, we’d have to send a security deposit of $1,500 and first month’s rent of $1,500 to her via bank transfer… and THEN we would be able to get the keys for the apartment. That’s when we started getting a weird feeling. She even broke down the details, saying things like ‘there’s clean sheets on the bed and a brand new set of bath linens, in case you guys are interested in moving in right away’. Again, way too good to be true! Exactly what I wanted, but WAY too good to be true! We had more questions, such as the unit number and how soon we could “move in”. Too much to text. My mom had the idea to have her call us for a quick discussion on the phone. 5 minutes later, “she” called us. I put “she” in quotes because we did NOT speak to a woman. My mom said it was a man, with a deep, slow, raspy voice and an accent. Answering our questions with vague responses, and not giving us much details. The ad said the woman’s name was “Linda”… we definitely did not speak to a Linda. Probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced! As soon as “Linda” called us, we instantly knew it was a scam.

I just wanted to share this story, not to scare anyone, but to spread awareness. Throughout our medical careers (and lives), we will be moving around to new places. People will often turn to Craigslist for sublet information or cheap apartment deals. Not every person on Craigslist is bad, but it’s important to be smart and know who you’re talking to. I had done some research on my own beforehand and found a really nice guy who was subletting his apartment. He gave me all the information up front, texted me back in a timely manner, and was open to all my questions. When we decided to go check out the unit, I gave my siblings the guy’s address, his name and cell phone number, and other information about the area and when we would be visiting. You just never know nowadays, so it’s important to take the precautions and be overcautious vs. unprepared! If something online seems ‘too good to be true’, most likely it is, and steer clear because you don’t want to run into any trouble! If you do decide to visit a place you found on the internet, be sure to take a friend with you, and also notify others where you will be, and give out the person’s contact information who you will be meeting with. Another way I found good apartments was through Facebook groups for Chicago, where students and other professionals were subletting or renting out apartments. I just searched “Chicago housing and apartments”, and TONS of groups came up with hundreds of different options. You can follow this same procedure anywhere by searching on Facebook the location you’re interested in moving to, + “housing” or “apartment sublet”. I am so thankful we realized this was all a scam, and I am so thankful my mom suggested that one phone call!

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2 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing! I use Craigslist often, and am hoping to move out of my mom’s house once I get a job. I will consider this story and these precautions in the future!

    Like

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