The Dangers of Craigslist

by Prince Of Petworth April 8, 2010 at 11:30 am 24 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user seligson2

“Dear PoP,

I’m in the process of looking for a place to rent starting this summer, preferably a house with a yard for the dog. At any rate, I saw an ad on Craigslist yesterday – http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/doc/apa/1678969338.html – that struck me as odd – $1,000 per month for a 4-bed, 4.5-bath 2800-sf pad within walking distance of the Tenleytown metro.

So I emailed the contact listed to ask whether the price was accurate, a typo, or the per-bedroom rent. The response kind of blew my mind (the exchange is below). Now, I have no interest in pursuing this rental any further – the circumstances remind me of a certain Nigerian prince who contacted me ages ago, from the oversharing of quirky details to the strange grammar – but I thought you or your readers might get a kick out of it.”

Even though I use Craigslist for my afternoon rental posts, I really hope to avoid situations like this. Insane:

I did get your response concerning the AD I posted on craigslist.. The house is still available but presently I’m not around… I did bid for a portion of petroleum land sometimes ago in West Africa and fortunately I won the bidding so I have to move quickly down to Africa to have my company set up because I will still have to rebid for it in the next 10 years. I came over here with my wife, we both owned the house when we got married. As soon as we settled down here I had a thought of selling the house so I have to look for an agent, after getting one, we got a deal but later my wife advised against that. She said we may not be able to win the bidding next time, in other to keep our head when we return that we have to keep the house.. I reasoned with her and accepted her advise.. So I contacted the agent back and requested for my keys and documents. Later we decided to have the house rent out because of maintainance, we would have give the same agent this job also but the truth of the matter is that the agent would want to handle it professionally and the occupant may not be able to reason along with me later if I let him or her know that I’m letting it out because of maintainance… If you notice, you will discovered th at the price we are offering is far below standard price, this is enough for you to know that we are not after the rental fee but the maintainance.. I know there is no way I can be sure that you are the right person to live in the house because we won’t be able to see physical before sending you the keys and the documents to occupy the space.. But I just had a feeling that anyone who knows what it takes to put the kind of structure down should know that maintaining a building is mandatory, so if you belief you can take good care of the house and handle it like yours then I will be more than happy to let you rent the house.The rent is $1000 and the deposit payment is $1100

ADDRESS 3727 Albemarle Street NW Washington, DC 20016

4 beds: $1000
Full Baths: 4
Half Baths: 1
Square Feet: 2800

Brand new, completely renovated 4 bedroom home less than 5 minutes from Tenleytown/AU Station Metro Stop (red line). 4 full baths, 1 half bath, finished basement, large outdoor backyard deck, fenced backyard with lighted fountain. 1 car garage with additional private parking available in the driveway and on the street. All new appliances including washer and dryer.


Full Name__________________________________________________
Home Phone ( )________________________
Date of Birth_________________________________
Other Phone ( )___________________
Current Address_______________________________Apt#________ City__________________ State______ Zip________
Reasons for Leaving____________________________Rent $__________Phone ( )____________________________
Are you married____________________________
How many people will be living in the house____________________________
Do you have a pet____________________________
Do you have a car____________________________
Your Exact move in date____________________________
How soon can you make the deposit and first month payment________________________
How soon do you want to receive the keys and documents of the house________________________

House Address 3727 Albemarle Street NW Washington, DC 20016

PLS NOTE Drive by and take a look at the exterior of the house because you cannot see the interior of the house.the keys and document are with me and family here in west africa.get back to me after viewing the exterior of the house with the application form filled out so as to proceed in shipment of the keys and document to you after making the payment to me directly,utilities are also included in the rent fee such as water,light,gas,washer,dryer,trash etc

  • Divine

    Ohh,I hate those! Those scams abound on CL. Pretty much anytime you see an ad for a fantastic looking apartment, in a perfect location at a too-good-to-be-true price, its too-good-to-be-true. Here’s one I got last year when I was looking:

    “The apartment is available and it’s located at 2140 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20037, with two bedrooms, one living room, two bathrooms and one kitchen, square feet 1240. I really want to find a good and responsible tenant for it and i was hoping if you can send me some personal informations about yourself. The monthly rent of $1,200 will include all utilities such as water, electricity, Internet, cable, parking etc. The only problem is that i had to move with my job to United Kingdom, London where i am now and i left the keys and contract already signed by me at a company called rent.com and they will handle the payment and delivery for us. If you want to know more about how this deal can work please get back to me ASAP and i will send you the details step by step.
    Thank you and hope to hear back from you.

  • both ways

    From the landlord perspective, about half the responses you’ll get are for individuals relocating from the UK or other western Europe country. Unfortunately, they cannot view the apartment, however their sponsor will gladly send you the deposit and first months rent. They will let you know the sponsor is unable to send the exact amount and would be delighted if you could wire them the difference. Usually when I see these start rolling in, I know the ad has correctly posted.

    The responses usually vary from barely English to almost believable (they reference something in your ad). For the almost believable, usually a nice, sorry you must sign the lease in person/I need to run a credit check is enough for them to go away.

    When looking at places to rent, the scam postings will often reuse the interior pictures from a random DC building. Google maps/streetview is a good tool to determine if the building exterior at least matches

  • Hoodrat

    ridiculous. fwiw, good deals do pop up from time to time. i almost rented a lovely 4-bedroom house in mt pleasant for like 1500/month because the landlords wanted a nice young couple there for a year because they were temporarily leaving town. i did, however, meet them and see the interior of the house. (ultimately, they wanted someone willing to move in immediately and we couldn’t for another 9 weeks or so, as i recall. bummer.)

  • Jamie

    Pretty common scam these days. Same rule applies to this one as any other one: only do deals like this in person, and if you must take a check, wait two weeks. Technically “clearing” is not enough these days, apparently, and forged cashier’s checks are not unheard of.

  • thought about it

    sounds legit.. while i’m at it ill send over an extra 10k just in case they fell upon some ridick business opportunity. i dont want to miss the chance of a life time..

  • AA

    I’d be pretty pissed if I lived at 3727 Albemarle Street!

  • ontarioroader

    If you have some free time [and a spare secondary email address] these guys can be fun to mess with. There was a great story on NPR’s “This American Life” a few years back about guys who scammed the scammers, sending them to Chad/Sudan border and nearly getting them killed. Funny stuff: http://www.itsecurity.com/blog/20080917/this-american-life-on-scamming-the-scammers/

    I’m sad to say it, but I’m African and will only do business with other Africans in cash and face-to-face. Fraud has basically become a lifestyle for many there.

    • Banksy

      I thought the Americans in that This American Life story come off as obnoxious and juvenile. I know the people they’re dealing with are criminals, but it still made me uncomfortable to listen to that story.

      I prefer the original scambaiter, a Brit who goes by the alias ShiverMeTimbers. His baits are legendary — and very funny. http://419eater.com/

      His bait correspondences fun to read, partly because of the way he writes, partly because of the things he gets the scammers to do, and partly because he works in references to Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Wallace and Gromit, Harry Potter, and other pop culture icons into his scambaits. The guy is a geeky internet avenger!

      Among his many baits, ShiverMeTimbers gets scammers to:
      — carve a wooden bust of his head, based on photographs sent to the scammer (http://419eater.com/html/bigman.htm).
      — carve other wooden sculptures, including one of a keyboard for a Commodore 64 (http://419eater.com/html/john_boko.htm) If you read only one of these scambaits, read this one.
      — pose for a ridiculous photo and send it to him (http://419eater.com/html/kothapalli_rao.htm). This is one of the more common scambaits that ShiverMe Timber uses.
      — send audio files of the scammer reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in its entirety (http://419eater.com/html/booked.htm);
      — join a fake religion (http://419eater.com/html/joe_eboh.htm). The TV show Frasier is a running theme throughout this long scambait.
      — join a fake religion AND get a tattoo (http://419eater.com/html/ahmed_sadiq.htm);
      — copy by hand the entire text of a Harry Potter book and send the handwritten pages (http://419eater.com/html/cyril_ifey.htm).

  • Rat King of Adams Morgan

    This just in, scammers use CraigsList to try and fleece fools for their money. More at 11.

  • Poor kitty. He doesn’t look dangerous!

  • mappo

    Hi, and welcome to the internet! Yes, there are Nigerian scammers on craigslist. Also, you may get viagra spam sent to your E-mail address, if you’ve signed up for one of those as well.

    Snark aside, this is a pretty common scam. The way it works is the scammer harvests the photos and details of real listings to later post scam listings. So all the details, address, # of rooms, even the pictures, in their listing seem legit.

  • Vito Corleone

    Has anybody seen those faxes to your offices claiming that a person has struck it rich, but they need assistance to obtain the funds? Some people in Nigeria sends the faxes out regularly and some faxes end up in government offices. We always refer the scammers to a FBI number, however, the scam faxes continue to show-up. I must say that there is an element of the Nigerian persuasion is very good in swindling naive people out of their money

  • To hell with the “dangers of craigslist”… that freakin’ cat doesn’t look too trustworthy.

  • Stoney Danza

    Did anybody else read that letter with a Nigerian accent? I totally did!

  • JoJo

    If it sounds too GOOD to be True, it probably is… Next?

  • FentonH

    This is why i don’t leave the computer on when I’m gone, Internet fraud is like catnip for my kitty … sorry about that Craigslist users.

  • Bitter Elitist

    Don’t forget to send him your routing, account & social security numbers!!!

  • BS

    I exchanged e-mails with one. I was “interested” in the $500 1 bedroom off U Street/16th. I got the same deal. But I wrote him back asking a bunch of questions, asking if I could stop by and see it with the building manager… after a while I saw him pop up on Yahoo! chat and so I sent him a message… I just kept asking questions and being skeptical and eventually he left me alone, seeing that I wouldn’t bite. It was kind of fun.

  • Katherine

    reminds me of an article i read suggesting that if CL charged $1 to take out classifieds it might be enough of a barrier to keep scammers out and make CL a more pleasant experience. not sure if it would work, but interesting.

  • ks

    I’ve been looking for a place too and I a noticed a bunch of likely scams lately, so many that I was mad enough to start flagging the ones I was sure about. They are pretty easy to spot when you are familiar with the area–look for photos that don’t seem like something like that would be in the neighborhood (e.g. a large pool, not on a roof top, a little too far downtown; a nice single family detached home in the middle of columbia heights, etc.)One even had a few photos that looked legit, but if you looked closely, you could see they showed 2 different kitchens! Some I noticed would not be obvious scams if the reader was not familiar with the area, but just didn’t seem quite right. They be sort of specific–nice apartment, large kitchen, nearly tenlytown metro–but it could still describe any area. Be sure to meet anyone you are dealing with in person, see the apartment in person, and never wire anyone a deposit!

  • Last year a house I owned showed up for rent on craigslist. The listing said something like \newly renovated house, $2000/month.\ The house I owned was for sale, but not for rent. Turns out some scammers took the picture off the internet, and then were getting people to apply to rent it and stealing their social security numbers and other personal info off the applications. Pretty scary. I reported it to craigslist and they took it down immediately and said they’d notify the police. Pretty scary!

  • PetworthRes

    Ugh, I hate to read about these scams on Craigslist. I am a landlord and rent out a rowhouse, and I have gotten scam replies to my ads before as well. And then I see on PoP all the time people who says they won’t use Craigslist because of this.

    There’s not a good alternative. The last time I rented my house I paid to place an ad on the Washington CityPaper website and didn’t get a single reply. So Craigslist is really the only venue out there, but as both a renter and a landlord, the “buyer beware” rule applies.

  • Columbia Heights Boy

    Sorry but how stupid do you have to be to think you can get a 4 bedroom house in Tenley for $1000 a month?!?


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