Scams succeed when we let our guard down. Inform yourself, ask lots of questions, stay alert, and don’t believe everything you read or see…
Beth Ann Bovino’s account about the apartment rental scam she uncovered after receiving calls from prospective tenants is a real eye-opener on the lengths scammers will go to in order to deceive their victims. Read it here.
A poster on Craigslist posted this primer on apartment scams on Craigslist Paris:
EUR1 craigslist housing scams- fake agencies, fake reverends, etc. (Paris)
.Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.orgDate: 2008-05-17, 11:38AM CEST.I think everyone pretty much has a B.S. alarm turned on when using craigslist, but in using craigslist over the past 2 weeks, I have run into three of these categories:1. Real owners2. Agencies3. Fake agencies/fake ownersI think the “fake owners” are pretty given. It’s usually a long e-mail by some guy who claims that he’s a reverend, gives you his life story, and ends his garbled e-mail by saying that he will Fed-Ex you the keys. What he does not mention is that his brother is a top Nigerian official who also needs your bank account because he wants to transfer $1.5 BILLION and will give you 20% for your trouble.The fake agencies include NRG and Address Sense.M.O.:They post an ad that seems “real” without mention of the agency, and with Address Sense, usually the e-mail is a “real name” email and not the hous-xxxxx craigslist address.They will have websites, pictures, descriptions… the pictures are usually small/poor quality/incomplete and the descriptions are usually vague. Asking for details, especially if you list them out (TV/internet/elevator/washer/oven– the last 3 are incredible luxuries by Parisian furnished flat standards)– you will get an YES to all.The agency fees are low– 300 euros for NRG and 200 euros for AS. You wire them the money, and you will receive the keys later by mail or from the owner. DING DING DING. Reverend David Hall, is that you? Please try to Google some real rental agencies in Paris, and see their fees. So: let’s start with the craigslist maxim: if it sounds too good to be true, well. You know how it ends.What both of them will say is that they are “web-based”– uh, sure, and you want to rent me a flat on the web? Sorry, NRG is based in “Belgium”, which is just as good a place as the internet to do French real estate. When you ask NRG for a contact number, they will say that they don’t have one.Oh, and you want to see the flat? Oh. Can’t show it because… um, someone is living there. (Technically: true. Someone is probably living there. It’d break some real laws, though, to get you to see the place.)Just to continue the joke, I asked for an owner contact. I was given the e-mail of an “owner”, whose reply was, I couldn’t decide, the syntax of an American trying to be French who writes in English or the syntax of an African trying to be French who writes in English. Anyway. She couldn’t meet me in Paris, either, because she’s “traveling”. Maybe she’s visiting her trustworthy rental agent, as her I.P. address is the same as the “agency”.(P.S. Tracking I.P. is super fun… just Google it.)So, I live in Paris. I found my flat from abroad when I was NOT in Paris, on craigslist, and my landlord happened to be (1) real and (2) fantastic. (For this story, though, I contradict with one of my friend, who was burned by a “fake owner”– some guy who had lived in the same flat before and had all the information.) It’s a crapshoot. It’s just that sometimes, it’s more crap than usual.