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SCAMMED ABROAD: Beware Craiglist

Anyone who has lived in Paris will tell you that finding accommodation therein is like finding a needle in a haystack. And once you’ve found it, the rent will probably be about twice your budget, and you’ll probably have to share a bathroom with the rest of the building. It’s an unpleasant task.

My first port of call was to type “accommodation in Paris” into Google. A website called craigslist.com was one of the top hits. As I browsed, I could hardly believe my eyes: pictures of spacious, modern apartments in the centre of Paris at reasonable – even ludicrous – prices. I immediately fired off half a dozen emails to the flats which particularly caught my eye (those with balconies overlooking the Eiffel Tower, for example).

I quickly received a response from a landlord. It was strangely worded; capitals were out of place, punctuation had gone haywire, and vocabulary was eccentric to say the least. However, as I read on, I began to realise that the grammar of the email wasn’t the only issue. He started waxing lyrical about how God’s divine intervention had thrown us together; how God had told him I was a good person and how I should believe that he, too, was a genuine character, because he was a devout Christian. After this religious discourse, I was asked to send my personal details: name, address, age, and a copy of my passport.

This request for my passport raised suspicions, but I was desperate for the flat and he’d mentioned, between religious raptures, the fierce competition I faced in securing it. So I duly scanned it in, and sent a rapid reply, a little knot of doubt beginning to twist at the back of my mind.

The following email was of a similar nature to the first; God and the Christian faith featured heavily. He agreed to the lease of the flat; a contract (also oddly worded) was attached to the email, which I was to sign and post back to the address given. Oh, and one other thing – I should send a €400 deposit with the contract, and would receive the keys in return.

I decided I’d better give it a miss.

Sadly, people do send extortionate amounts of money to these so-called Christians in the hope of a beautiful Parisian flat, and, of course, the keys never materialise and it turns out the person they believe they are emailing does not exist, but has been sending emails from somewhere in California. Almost all of the landlords I found on craigslist replied in a similar fashion – it is a common occurrence. Of course, not all advertisements on craigslist are scams; I know someone who did manage to rent a real flat from a real person as a result of one. But it is worth bearing in mind that people are not always who they say they are, particularly if they are asking you to send them large sums of money for something you cannot guarantee you’ll receive.

Emily Beeby

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