We all know someone or have heard about the scams that take place on websites, so here are some tips for you to consider when searching online:
Trust your gut!
If you read a listing that sounds great, but something just feels off, trust what you feel. If you get an uneasy feeling from emailing a potential landlord or feel that something just isn’t right, do NOT follow through.
If it sounds too good to be true… it is.
If a fully furnished, 2-bedroom apartment is for rent in the West Village in a luxury, high-rise, doorman building for $500, it most likely isn’t real.
Never wire money overseas or send cash.
Many scammers prefer not to meet their victims face to face. Instead, the owner (read: scammer) will “unfortunately” be out of town, or out of the country. You’ll be asked to wire them the funds via Western Union or MoneyGram, and then you’ll never hear from them again. Only hand over money once you’ve physically been to the address and physically been inside the apartment with an agent.
Only deal locally or with people that you can meet in person - follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99% of the scam attempts. If they cannot meet with you, that should raise a red flag. Make sure you have a phone number and even an office location that you can verify with the person showing you the apartment.
FAKE CASHIER CHECKS & MONEY ORDERS ARE COMMON, and BANKS WILL CASH THEM AND THEN HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE when the fake is discovered weeks later.
Craigslistst (and most websites) are not Accountable.
CRAIGSLIST IS NOT INVOLVED IN ANY TRANSACTION, and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services, or offer "buyer protection" or "seller certification”. If you are scammed Craigslist has no part and will not reimburse you. This is the same for most websites -- they are simply providing a means to which information can be shared.
Never give out financial information.
Never send anyone a bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc. AVOID DEALS INVOLVING SHIPPING OR ESCROW SERVICES and know that ONLY A SCAMMER WILL "GUARANTEE" YOUR TRANSACTION.
Key words in a scam advertisement: inquiry from someone far away, often in another country, Western Union, Money Gram, cashier's check, money order, cash only, shipping, escrow service, or a "guarantee"inability or refusal to meet face-to-face before consumating transaction, no phone number or physical location of an office.
New York City is a much safer place. Be smart about your decision, don't feel pushed or rushed into it, and again, trust your feelings. If by chance you happen to be a victim of a scam, then call the police and report it as soon as possible. If you pulled a listing off a website, notify the website owner as well so others don't become a victim.