It’s a lovely time of year. It’s the season of family, giving, and new year’s resolutions. For the random person out there replying to craigslist ads with fake names, it might also be the season of scamming. As of yesterday afternoon, I was almost scammed by a “girl” on craigslist. I’m using quotation marks here liberally because I never talked to the person and only corresponded with them via email and text. So I’d like to share the experience with everyone out there just in case. If it happens to you, hopefully you’ll know what to spot. Honestly, I almost fell for this, but my boyfriend stopped me first.
So, Jennifer Rusell answered my craigslist ad for a new roommate. She kindly informed me that she was from Spain but currently living in Puerto Rico doing research. She would be coming to my area to go to grad school in January. She told me she would be arriving about the 15th (red flags should have gone off here because all the schools around here start back the 9th). So, once she said she was going to go ahead and send me rent money I was down. The thing was, she sent me about $3000 instead of the required $750. Then she asked me to transfer money ($1800) for her through Western Union to her agent in Illinois so that they could deliver her car to the apartment. Honestly I was definitely about to just go ahead and send it since I had deposited the check in my account. But then the BF called and asked what I was up to.
“Oh, nothing much…you know just about to send some money for my new roommate.”
The immediate response: “WHAT?! WHY?! DON’T DO IT!”
As soon as he said it was putting up red flags in his mind…everything started to look really fishy. If her dad could send me a check, then certainly he could send one to her agent. Next red flag, my dad would NEVER do that. Next, she said she couldn’t call me because she didn’t have access to a phone in Puerto Rico. Ok, if you have internet, you can find a way to call me. The BF decided that maybe he was being pessimistic, and asked me to wait until the check cleared at least and tell her that I would not be sending the money until that had happened. Well, once I let her know I wasn’t going to transfer the money for her until the check cleared she got really worried. Then I informed her that I would prefer not to be a go between for money, and that her dad could send them the money. The text response…
“Ok, you don’t have to be like this!!! I’ll compensate you!!!”
Solution: visit the bank. Come to find out, I’m the fourth girl they’ve had come in with the exact same scenario: girl out of town, sends $3000-$4000 and asks them to send $2000 to a different account. The only difference is that all of the other girls sent the money. Two weeks later the check had disappeared from their accounts because it wasn’t real, and the “future roommate” had dropped off the face of the earth. So, scam averted. I also went to the police and filed an information report so that they can try to find out more about “her.”
So in short, here’s a good recap of what to look for if you think you’re being scammed and you’re in my situation.
- someone who does not want to meet or cannot call you. Avoidance of any “personal” form of contact. Email and texting doesn’t count.
- gifting a large amount of money–it’s hard to resist. Plus it looks clean. $1800 out of $3000? Of course it’s covered.
- sending money for them. If they can send you money…they can send money to someone else just as easily. Per my BF’s advice: never do anything account related for someone you don’t trust with your life.
I hope no one else runs across the same problem I did. Unfortunately, I’m a somewhat gullible person, and I just have trouble believing that someone would actually do that. If you’re a person who might be willing to do something for a random person you haven’t met and you really think it’s ok, double check with someone you trust. Preferably, ask someone who would know what to do if it was a scam. That way, they can tell you for certain if it is and why. I felt extremely guilty and stupid at first for not realizing I was having one pulled over on me, but once the red flags are put up, that’s all that matters. There are some really nasty people out there, and they aren’t just myths. Here’s my advice: if you are a girl from an upper middle-class background, you probably don’t know too much about scammers. So if you’re entering into an agreement with someone you haven’t met, please run it by someone who might be able to identify it as something less than stellar. It will save you a LOT of heartbreak down the road.