These days, it seems like the phrase “too good to be true” has a very positive connotation. That is, we often hear it used about a great deal that seems too good to be true, yet somehow is true. But recently, I’ve come across the flip-side of “too good to be true”. That is, a deal that seems too good to be true, because it is not true.
And I’ve actually come across such a deal twice in the past year. And both times I was doing the same thing: searching for apartments online.
We all know what a pain in the ass it is to search for apartments. The internet has alleviated that pain in many respects (and continues to with new startups). But it has also created new, sort of terrifying pains.
Last year, I was within hours of losing thousands of dollars (and potentially much more) on a deposit I made towards a place I found on Zillow. As it turned out, the renter was not who he was claiming to be. In fact, he had no rights to rent out the apartment. In fact, he undoubtedly had never even seen the apartment. A simple reverse lookup of his IP address located him somewhere in Singapore.
Luckily for me, some sort of intuition kicked in before it was too late. I was able to recover my deposit and filed a report with the IC3 1 about the scam.
But this week I found myself browsing the apartment landscape again. And again, I found a place that seemed too good to be true. It couldn’t happen again, right?
An inquiry sent to a place found on Craigslist came back with an email eerily similar to the one I got a year ago. Hell, for all I know, it could be the same scammer/shop. This time, of course, I knew what not to do. But I have to wonder how many people out there fall victim to this sort of con?
I consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to all things internet. And while there were some mitigating factors that caused me to take some silly risks in my initial ordeal, it wasn’t that hard to be fooled — especially since we so often want a deal that sounds too good to be true, to actually be true.
I also have to wonder what is going on with these sites like Zillow and Craigslist, which are clearly being utilized in a major way to spread these scams. An earlier inquiry yielded no response. Use at your own risk, I guess.
Anyway, hopefully this serves as a good reminder that if a deal sounds too good to be true, sometimes — just sometimes — it’s because it is. Be careful out there.