Despite the dated (or lack thereof) design, Craigslist is one of the top resources for available apartments in the San Francisco rental market. It makes sense – advertising costs nothing so you’ll find a wide range of apartment types on it – from single family homes to the larger new developments. Since it’s an open resource for sellers (including scammers) and the platform is maintained with a trim team of only 50 employees, it’s hard to monitor every listing published. However, we’ve done enough research to consider ourselves experts, so we’re going to share some helpful tips to prevent you from getting scammed.
1 Avoid Wiring Money
Avoid wiring money (Western Union, MoneyGram, etc.) or sending cashier’s checks through the mail as there’s no protection if the transaction is not legitimate. You’ll hear a range of excuses for urgency to act now, i.e. “This is a great opportunity and the apartment will go quickly so act now.”
2 Meet With Seller
Always meet with the seller and view the apartment in person. There are a number of excuses you might hear about why someone can’t meet up but stand your ground and don’t take the bait.
3 Know the Market
Do research in the area that you are looking at. If it looks too good to be true, then it probably IS! For example: If average monthly rates for a 1 bedroom are $3,000 – $4,000 and the listing offers a 1 bedroom for $1,000/month, this should raise a red flag.
4 Research the Seller
Search for their name, email and/or business name that will legitimize them.
5 Keep Personal Information Private
Don’t provide personal information. Never provide your bank information, social security number, date of birth or even address in the beginning stages of your apartment search. It’s only during the application process that you will need to give this detailed information.
6 Trust Your Instinct
Again, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re feeling any inkling of discomfort, do more research, call a professional, or just walk away from it!