So two months ago I documented here my experience with a Craigslist rental scammer which was definitely an eye-opening experience for me. I'd heard of these "Craigslist scams", but never having encountered one myself, or had a friend that had gone as deep into the rabbit hole as I had, I must admit I was a little naive.
In any case, I hope these tips and slivers of advice (highlighted in red from a concerned Craigslist individual) can be of help to you in your journey to find a place to live. Please feel free to contact me to expand the list, or better yet, feel free to create a post/thread yourself.
And so without further ado...
1. If an ad sounds too good to be true ... it probably is
Nobody is going to rent you a fancy condo in Kits, Yaletown, False Creek, the West End, Coal Harbour, etc., for $750! It just does not happen! Don't be fooled by photos of glorious views and designer interiors. Most likely those photos have been lifted from real estate brochures or decorating magazines. They do not represent what is on offer because, generally speaking, the person who placed the ad is a conman looking for naive, eager renters ready to believe anything in their search for a new home.
For me, it was a sweet condo in Coal Harbour for $1000 CAD. It looked too good to be true... and what a surprise, it was.
2. Make sure any place you are interested in is available for viewing in person
Anyone who tells you they are in another country working (most often they are "missionaries doing God's work" in order to try to get you to trust them) and that they will send you the keys AFTER you send them money via Western Union is a liar and a cheat.
Do not put out any money on something that has only photos online for you to base your decision on.
In my experience, the scammer was supposedly away in the UK for an engineering contract. He asked me to first deposit money via MoneyGram (under the guise that we were using Roomarama to act as a 3rd party to handle the transaction) after which he would then send the keys to Vancouver, so that I could inspect the unit. If I didn't like the look of it, I could send the keys back... HAH.
3. When you go to view a place, take someone else with you
Have this "witness" take a photo of you and the "landlord" as you look around the place. Most landlords do not object to your taking photos of the suite while viewing, so a quick snap of the person showing you around shouldn't be difficult. I don't mean a posed picture, just a quick snap. If they object, you have to ask yourself why.
That being said, not all landlords allow pictures when viewing a suite. You are actually not supposed to be allowed to take pictures if there is a current tenant occupying the suite. I was viewing a place on West 3rd & MacDonald yesterday and the landlady did NOT let us take photographs of the common spaces, or peoples rooms (which makes sense), except for the master bedroom in which the subletter was present.
4. Just keep your wits about you
Don't be afraid to ask questions, ask for ID, pay by cheque only, get a signed rental agreement. Additionally, no fee can be charged to you for applying to rent a place. Damage/security deposit can only be half a month's rent and should only be paid, by cheque, at the time of signing a rental agreement. You cannot be charged first and last month's rent in advance. You cannot be charged a fee for keys or a "key fee". Generally there is no "move in" or "move out" fee, except in some condo buildings where there is allowance for this in the strata rules.
Additionally, About Craigslist Scam is a great resource that documents the characteristics of a lot of different types of Craigslist scams.