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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Internet Scams

A “scam” is a fraudulent scheme that fools people into giving away their money for nothing. It used to be that when you wanted to rent an apartment or buy something second-hand, you would look in the newspaper, call the person and then exchange the money and goods in-person. These days, the internet has made it much easier for scammers and fraudsters to trick people. Sites like Craigslist are littered with scams and criminals use all kinds of methods to take your hard earned cash. The key points for people using sites like Craigslist are; know the techniques that scammers use and don’t send any money before you are sure. This information will show you what to look out for and give you some advice on what to do when you spot a scam.

It could be a scam if …

It’s too good to be true

Wow, amazing!! A 5-bedroom house available for rent for only $800 in a great neighborhood. Warning! If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers will often try to lure people in by giving amazing prices or deals. If it’s super cheap, it could be a scam.

The photos are the same as another posting

Scammers will often steal photos from another advertisement and then use them in their ad. Now, obviously there are lots of ads out there, so you might not know that the photos are stolen, but chances are if you are looking for a car or house that you have already been through lots of ads. If you see photos that look the same as another ad, it could be a scam.

There are too many details

Scammers often give lots of details about why they are selling something. It can often include a hard-luck story or some long, convoluted story. This is to either gain sympathy or confuse the buyer. If there are too many details, it could be a scam.

They ask for money up-front

This is the most common way of spotting a scam. In the western world, most people will not exchange money without at least talking to the person they are dealing with first. If someone asks for money too early, then it could be a scam.

There’s no background check

Landlords want to know that they are getting the best people for their properties, so they will be very careful with who they contact. If a landlord doesn’t ask for a background check or references, then it could be a scam.

It originates overseas

Lots of scams come from overseas so if the seller is located overseas then it could be a scam. 

Things to do and not do if you think you're being scammed

What to Do…

  • Use websites that have seller feedback as much as possible.
  • Check out the details of the purchase as much as possible.
  • Cross check prices with other similar ads.
  • Try to meet and talk with the person.
  • Scammers will not usually meet in person.
  • Copy and paste the ad into a Google search. Most scams are just copied from other ads so you may be able to find the original with a google search.
  • With rental properties, you can contact the rental association to find out property owners.
  • Ask for the address and check google maps to see that the house actually exists.
  • Google the landlord/seller to see if they are real/upstanding.

What NOT to Do…

  • Don’t wire money or send a Western Union transfer. These are often used by scammers because they are difficult to track and get back.
  • Don’t give any information to anyone before you are sure it is real. Even if scammers don’t get money out of you, they can use your personal information for identity theft.
  • Don’t send more money than required. Familiarize yourself with rental property laws. Landlords will usually not ask for more than 50% of the monthly rent for bond.

What should I do if I get scammed?

The key with scammers is not to get scammed in the first place because it is quite difficult to track them down. If you do get scammed, there are a few things you should do. If you are in time, contact your bank and cancel any cheques or payments you may have made already. Contact the police and give them as many details of the crime as you can. Contact the online site, they may be able to do something and they can definitely ban the person who scammed you. Update your anti-virus software on your computer and do a scan. The scammers may have also given you links that put viruses on your computer.

Red flags

  • Poor English (indicating an overseas scammer).
  • There are too many irrelevant details.
  • They ask for too much money for a deposit (more than 50% of the rent).
  • They want to sign the house without meeting.
  • They ask for lots of details casually and not on a rental agreement form.
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