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How to Use Craigslist Safely

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When it comes to searching for an apartment to rent, the Internet has become the preferred method for apartment-hunting, surpassing the old, obsolete methods of browsing through real estate brochures, or flipping through the real estate section of your local newspaper. Now, you can find just about all the information you need about local apartments available to rent through the Internet, using any number of the websites that exist to help apartment hunters narrow their search by price range, location and number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Websites like Craigslist are often overlooked, but they are extremely useful ways to find available apartment listings in your area. Searching them can uncover a lot of hidden gems and great deals for finding apartments, but you have to make sure to always be careful when using sites such as those and to gather as much information as you can before you make a decision.

While you search for your new apartment on the Internet, one of the most important things for you to remember is that you should be always be vigilant when looking at listings and that any deal that seems too good to be true most likely is. Staying ahead of the game and aware of potential scams will help you when you're caught up in the controlled chaos of sorting through all of the apartment listings trying to find one that's perfect for you. One of the biggest hazards out there today is the tendency to fall for listings that are fraudulent in nature, so it always helps to be extra careful.

Searching for an apartment on Craigslist

There are so many useful apartment-hunting tools available on the Internet these days that it can be almost overwhelming to sort through everything that's out there, so it helps to go into the process with a plan in mind, and a predetermined set of characteristics and requirements that you're looking for in your future apartment. It also helps to know exactly where you want to search and what websites you'll use to start, to prevent yourself from being hit with an information overload.

Craigslist is an excellent resource to begin your apartment search and you can narrow your search down to just about any city in America to look for apartments that are for rent. But while this website is sure to contain hundreds of listings for you to browse through, you should always practice caution when using Craigslist, as it's not held to the same standards as professional real estate websites and users may fall victim to scams if they are not careful.

Here are some helpful tips to consider when using Craigslist to browse for available apartments for rent in your area:
  • Always make sure to directly contact the person who posted a listing either by phone or email to ask any questions and inquire about the listing. If you find a listing that catches your eye, the first thing you should do is contact the email address or phone number attached to the listing to find out whatever information you can about the apartment for rent. It benefits you, as the consumer, to gather as much information about the property as you can before you put it on a short-list or set out to take a look at the place. Being as informed as possible will help you avoid any potential scams or fraudulent activity and will help you stay on your toes.

  • Never send any money without first seeing the apartment and meeting with the landlord or apartment owner. This might seem like it goes without saying, but you can never be too careful when you're dealing with the Internet, especially on sites like Craigslist where con-artists and scammers like to prey on people who are not as tech savvy as others. The main thing to remember is to always be wary of listings that ask you to wire money or a deposit for the apartment through money transfer outlets like Western Union. More often than not, these scenarios will lead you right into a scam and there's a good chance you won't ever see that money again. Never hand over any money, especially cash, without first meeting with the landlord or apartment building owner and seeing the apartment in person.

  • Don't give out any personal information. Along the same lines as not sending money is not giving out your personal information to anyone on Craigslist without first verifying their identity and making sure that the apartment listing is authentic. Some scammers will try to lure in people searching for apartments and request personal information from them like Social Security numbers, bank account information, or even addresses and phone numbers, and can use this information to steal identities. Never give out any personal information to anyone you're dealing with through Craigslist without first going through the appropriate channels.

What to look for on Craigslist

When you get to Craigslist and begin browsing through the seemingly endless list of available apartments for rent in your area, you'll notice that it can be difficult to separate all of the listings and tell them apart from each other, which makes it hard to know which ones are legitimate and which aren't. Here are a few things you should keep your eye open for when you're browsing through your city or town's Craigslist page looking for available apartments to rent:
  • Be wary of listings with no photos of the apartment. When you search for apartments on websites like Apartments.com and Trulia, you'll usually see a set of pictures of each apartment showing you what the interior and exterior of the apartment looks like. On Craigslist, you should stick to the same guidelines and exercise caution when going through the listings. If you see a listing that looks sketchy and doesn't include any pictures of the property, it may not be legitimate.

  • Also, be wary of listings with no contact telephone number posted. Real landlords or apartment owners serious about attracting renters on Craigslist with their listings will include their contact telephone number in the listing to make it easy for prospective renters to contact them and inquire about the apartment. If you don't see a telephone number listed, be warned that the listing may not be legitimate.

  • If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. This was mentioned earlier, but it should be repeated: If you see a listing that seems like an out-of-this-world once-in-a-lifetime deal, then there's a good chance it's not real. So the next time you happen to find a listing for a three-bedroom apartment for rent for $300 a month right in a prime location in the city with all the amenities included, be aware that you probably aren't the first person to fall for it, and you won't be the last.

Robert Moreschi  Posted by Robert Moreschi on July 2, 2013

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