Swindlers list: Student loses $3,500

A classic classified scam is back, and a rising third-year UVA student trying to sublet an apartment on craigslist was bilked out of $3,500 over the weekend.

The playbook was standard: The student received a response from someone purporting to be from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, [warning sign #1] wanting to rent the apartment unseen. They sent a $5,000 check [warning sign #2, usually a fake cashier's check] for the $1,500 rent [warning sign #3– the amount is way over the rent or sales price]. The student was asked to deposit it and write checks from her account for the overage, in this case to pay for airline tickets and storage, says Charlottesville police Officer Phil Wauple.

The young woman deposited the bogus check Saturday, May 19. She sent out checks from her account May 21, and on May 22, her bank said the check was no good and asked, "Hey, where's our dough?" says Wauple. And by then, the victim's checks had already been cashed.

"There's no way she's ever going to get her money back," observes Wauple.

He's surprised people are still falling for the ploy, which the Hook and other local papers have written about. At the top of the craigslist apartment rentals page, a link in red leads to advice for avoiding frauds and scams.

But sadly, sometimes the lessons learned are not in a university classroom.

1 comment

Unfortunately, it seems few people read those warnings. I run a smaller classifieds site and get people telling me of these scams on a regular basis. I usually have to point out the big Red "Classifieds Scam Alert" link just under my header.