Some scammers are taking advantage of the growing popularity of craigslist to victimize people trying to rent their homes or apartments. The scheme is basically the fake check scam, with a twist.
Darryl, of San Diego, told ConsumerAffairs.com that he received almost identical replies when he listed a room for rent on both craigslist and Roommate.com. The replies claimed to be from "Marie," who called herself "a young humanitarian officer."
"Marie" said her employer would be sending Darryl her expense check, which would be for several thousand dollars. Darryl was to deposit it in his account, deduct the rent and deposit, and send the balance on to "Marie."
Fortunately, Darryl saw through the scam. If he had cashed the phony check, it would not have been discovered for a few days. By then he would have sent the scammer a very real check for a $3,000 or more.
"Most people who use craigslist have great stories to tell about their experiences with buyers, sellers, tenants, landlords and such, but we also receive occasional reports of scams and fraud," craigslist warns on its Web site. "We've found that one of the best ways to avoid this problem is to keep all transactions local -- whenever possible, don't do business with anyone who is not in your local area."
The site also urges consumers to use caution and common sense when dealing with any financial transaction:
Deal only with locals. Most non-local inquiries on craigslist are scams.
Never wire funds to a distant person, via Western Union or any other carrier.
Be wary if the other party wants to use an escrow service such as BidPay or Squaretrade.
Never give out personal financial information (checking account number, SSN, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)
Trust your instincts, and always remember that the most important rule -- caveat emptor (buyer beware) -- applies to any transaction on craigslist where money is involved.