If you are looking for a roommate and you placed ads on roommate listings, regardless of whether or not those listings are free or paid, chances are you will get a response from person who claims that they are interested in being your roommate. This person will have no interest in being your roommate. There only interest is to scam you and rob you for your money. Fact: roommate scams swarm roommate listings. Familiarizing yourself with these roommate scams is your first guard of protection from theft and fraud. If you do not know what a roommate scam is or how it sounds or look like, educate yourself fast before you become a victim. If you do become a victim of a roommate scam, you have to immediately contact your local authorities and possibly the FBI.
Here is what a roommate scam email looks like:
I saw your ad on (roommate listing) .com I am looking to rent a room or seek a roommate who is nice and honest. My name is Denise and I am 29 yr. Old Broker currently living in London with my Uncle. I am honest, trustworthy and a caring individual who enjoys making good friends and having a good time.
I plan to come to the United States to work at a new brokerage firm on an 8 month contract. I just want to confirm the rent, utilities and if there is any deposit. What's the amount to move in altogether? I can pay you 2 months rent and would like to move in right away. I will have my associate in the United States send you a cashier's check for 2 the months payment.
Please forward me your full details where you want payment to be processed
Thanks and I will be waiting for your details so I can proceed with the payment!
This is a clear example of a roommate scam. There are other similar roommate scams where people claim to be from Canada, UK, Nigeria, Australia, Sweden, etc. Ways to quickly spot a roommate scam goes as follows:
1. The person is a foreign national
2. They claim that they are moving to the US for work, school or a modeling contract
3. They usually only give their first name and if you reply with an email asking for their full name, address and email, sometimes they refuse to give it to you.
4. They want to send you their "final paycheck" from their current employee and deposit the check in your bank account as form of payment for the rent deposit.
5. They ask you to cash the check, money order or cashier's check (usually more than the amount of the rent's deposit) into your bank account or open an account at a different bank of their choice. Once the check is deposited into your account, they will ask you to deduct a portion of the money to cover the rent and will ask you to withdraw the exceeded portion to wire transfer back to them. They will explain that they need the extra money wired back to them to purchase "a plane ticket" and / or "pay for moving expenses". These checks, money orders and cashier's checks are counterfeit. The "exceeded potion" you withdrew from the back is how they make their money. In many cases, once the bank realizes that these checks are counterfeit, they will come after YOU for the money.
6. They offer for "an associate" or "sponsor" they know in the US to send you a check, cashier's check or money order for you to deposit in your bank for the rent deposit (again the check, money order and cashier's checks Are fake!).
7. They request your personal information like full name, address, phone number, personal email account and bank where you will be depositing the checks. Sometimes they will insist on a particular bank for you to deposit their fake checks.
8. Their emails make the assumption that you have chosen them to be your roommate and will ask you to remove your ad off the roommate listing.
9. You receive similar emails that sound almost identical, but using different names and job occupations.
10. If you request information from them like their current home address, scans / fax copies of their passport, visas and employer contracts, they will refuse to give you the information and make BS excuses why they can not.
11. If you communicate with these roommate scam artists through email or telephone (at first not knowing you are about to be scammed) and request a little more time to do research or explain you are interviewing other people, they will get nasty, impatient And barrage you with constant emails, IM and phone calls.
When answering emails on roommate listings always be sure to verify as much information as you can about the other person. Ask questions and do not be shy about it. Remember, you will be essentially moving a stranger into your house or apartment. Therefore, you have every right to protect yourself and ask questions. Trust your gut and listen to any red flags that may go up if you believe you received an email that appears to be a roommate scam. If you no longer feel comfortable communicating with someone you suspect is trying to scam you, stop all communication and report the incident to the FBI. You can do this by visiting the FBI website and look for links about internet scams.
Understanding and recognizing roommate scams is the first step to protecting yourself while you search for a roommate. Information is power! The more informed you are about roommate scams, the easier, safer and quicker it will be to find the perfect roommate for you!
Happy roommate hunting!