In Chicago, I paid $2400 per month for a 2bd/2ba condo in the heart of the loop (downtown). No such luck out in the Bay Area. In San Francisco, finding a $2400 per month studio is a steal, which is why I jumped on a Craigslist ad for “Eye-Catching Completely Furnished 1BR Apartment Near Muni/BART Station” at $2200 per month. The apartment was purportedly downtown and a few blocks from the Montgomery Bart station. The photos looked good, and the timing worked out.

Bedroom Living Room

The first couple of emails we traded seemed quite innocent. Her(?) grammar passed a quick read-through and the content was consistent with the jumble of posts and marketing-speak that pervades Craigslist as it is today. I should have taken the time to read the emails more carefully, but there’s a strong tendency to skim when you’re dealing with many of these. I was almost at the point of filling out the initial tenant form, complete with personal details, to demonstrate the seriousness of my intent. Obviously I would have done more due diligence if any money was to be transferred (I reassure myself). What scares me is the fact that I was so ready to hand over all my personal details to this scammer.

The following should have been immediate red flags:

  • Photos looked like the apartment was a model/demo unit
  • Subtle grammar issues that shouldn’t exist for a native English speaker
  • Unavailability for an in-person showing
  • She(?) included a photo of herself
  • Streak (Gmail extension) showed her(?) location as Lagos, Nigeria

Yea - Lagos, Nigeria. It was at that point I turned to my girlfriend and ran through my list of suspicions, whom promptly assured me it was indeed a scam. A Google images drag-and-drop search confirmed a Los Angeles unit with the exact same photos.

The first email reproduced below. Take heed netizens!

Hi Tony,

My name is Jane and I am a travel nurse who is looking to rent out her apartment for 3 to 6 months (from now to February 28th/or end of March if possible) during the period I will be working in a major medical center in Mississippi. I am also open to a short term sublease between 1 to 2 months as I’m keen to sort out my apartment situation in the coming days if possible.

I will like to confirm the dates you need the place for to be sure to accommodate you or if I’ll have to find another renter to occupy the place for the remaining term in-between or afterwards.

I welcome any questions you may have and look forward to moving with the next steps.

Best regards,

Jane Baxter