When students start searching for an apartment, one of the first places they look is Craiglist. The student must select the type of housing, but the next most important decision is price. What if a student finds a private apartment in a great neighborhood that seems like a once-in-a-lifetime deal?
It may be a scam.
Fraud and scams on Craigslist happen often but, by following simple steps, they can be avoided.
Taylor Abegg-Lawrence, a sophomore from Provo studying microbiology, said he prefers eBay because it’s more reliable. However, he thinks the best way to avoid a scam is to make sure the person on Craigslist is willing to pay in person with cash.
“If you are hard set on Craigslist, make sure they are local and are willing to deal cash in person,” Abegg-Lawrence said. “Any other form of payment, including cashier’s checks and wire transfer, is highly suspicious. If they insist on drop-offs or third-party involvement, that is suspicious as well. And of course, if it seems too good to be true, that’s exactly what it is.”
When a fake cashier’s check is cashed by the bank, it will not be discovered until weeks later. Once this is discovered, the bank will hold the person who cashed it responsible.
Traci Gundersen, director of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, said there are red flags someone can look for in a scam.
“Anytime someone gives you a check and asks you to wire the difference back is a huge red flag,” Gundersen said in an email. “Never, under any circumstances, wire money to a person you don’t know and have no way of meeting in person. Also, be wary of ads that are poorly written. Don’t do business with people who say they are out of the country. A non-functional or out-of-service phone number is also a bad sign.”
Gundersen said to stay away from people selling items that are illegal. If the seller is willing to sell something illegal, they are also willing to scam buyers.
Gundersen said to avoid scams, stay away from three things.
“Never commit yourself to a sale without inspecting the object or item in person, never engage in a transaction that requires a wire transfer of money, never work with someone who is out of the country or claims to be out of the country,” she said.
Craigslist has a section on how to avoid being scammed while using their site. Even though it may seem like basic advice, the site says to never give out financial information. This information includes bank account and Social Security numbers. The site said guaranteed transactions are most likely a scam. To make sure the housing being rented is up to expectations or that it is a real product, make it a priority to see the interior. In taking these precautions, it will decrease the risk of being scammed.
Although money scams come to mind when dealing with Craigslist, a different kind of fraud happened in Provo recently.
According to police a 21-year-old BYU student began a relationship with a man named Brad Adams via Craigslist, which led to the pair meeting up. At this time, the victim told Adams he no longer wanted to have contact with him. A Provo Police Department news release said Adams did not stop pursuing the victim.
“Brad allegedly told the victim to give him sex or money, or he would tell his family, friends and BYU Honor Code Office,” the news release said. “The victim gave the suspect $260 hoping this would end the relationship. Brad continued to persist for money or sex.”
The victim went to the Provo Police for assistance, and Adams was caught and “booked into the Utah County Jail for extortion and attempted forcible sodomy.”
To use Craigslist, a person must provide personal information which may be stored on the site.
“We may collect personal information if you provide it in feedback or comments, post it on our classifieds or interactive forums, or if you contact us directly,” the website says. “Please do not post any personal information on Craigslist’s forums or classifieds that you expect to keep private. All classified and forum postings are stored in our database, even after “deletion,” and may be archived elsewhere. Although we make good faith efforts to store the information in a secure operating environment that is not available to the public, we cannot guarantee complete security.”