if it seems too good to be true . . .

It is.

Friend or foe?

Friend or foe?

I’m on Craigslist looking for apartments in the Bay Area. Jon got a job in Berkeley, but Berkeley’s super expensive, so we’re looking east, in Lafayette. Lafayette’s expensive, too, but here’s a one-bedroom condo for $1,000/month — a steal for Lafeyette. And so I email the guy, “I’m interested!”

The next day, I hear back.

The owner — “Kelvin Allen” — says he’s relocated to Ohio. He includes an application in his email — if I’m approved and “will wire him the deposit,” he’ll mail me the keys and leasing documents “the same day.”

Something sounds fishy.

But I want to believe him. Jon and I drive to the location and check out the exterior. It’s a nice neighborhood and not far from Jon’s job. The interior pictures look nice. If this is the real deal . . . We text the guy “yes” and head home. Later, at 11 p.m, Kelvin texts back. “You’re approved. When will you send me the money?”

??? But I keep my mouth shut. “Great!” I say. “Tomorrow,” I say.

“Okay,” he says.

Tomorrow comes (Friday, my birthday) and Kelvin starts texting. “When will you send me the money?” Geez! It’s 8 a.m., dude. Chill. Jon’s getting suspicious. He looks up the address. It’s listed as a three-bedroom apartment on two other Web sites — for $2,500. He looks up the apartment’s previous owners. Kelvin Allen isn’t there.

I send Kelvin the listings for “his” one-bedroom property. “?” I ask.

Kelvin hesitates. “Oh, yes! I am only renting out one of the rooms.”

“Just one?”

“The realtor is renting the other ones for me.”

“Is that so.”


“So we’ll have roommates, then?”

“No. There is a separate entrance.”

“There is? I didn’t see one.”


“Have you even seen the property?”

“Of course!”


“So are you going to send me the money or not?”

“Why should I trust you?

“I am a good Christian. If you think I would try to cheat people out of their hard-earned money . . .”

Game over, buddy.


Do you use Craigslist? If so, what for? If not, why not?


Images: Google

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38 thoughts

  1. That guy was such a conman. Glad you didn’t fall for it. I’m always wary of doing such transactions like that online when it involves something like a room, car or instrument. Call me overcareful, but I must meet the person selling the things or services to me before handing over my money. Hope the both of you find a place soon. It’s always hard house hunting within a budget (don’t we all!) Good luck :)

    • Yeah, we learned our lesson. I now know what to look for in an ad on Craigslist. If it doesn’t include pictures (the guy sent me pictures of the interior via email) and a realtor’s phone number, I’m not interested.

      Thanks for the good luck wishes! I’m still looking, and we’re running out of time! (This is also why I haven’t been very active on my blog lately. I will have a lot of catching up to do!)

  2. Too good to be true. Good thing you did additional research. Friend of mine was scammed a few thousand Dollars on Air Bnb. They somehow convinced him to send money via Western Union and to a different country altogether.

  3. Wow! What a racket! Unbelievable, thank God you did your investigating. Why even advertise without disclosing the details of the possibility of “roommates??”

    • I am always amazed at how a certain segment of society will focus their attention on finding a weak point in a system and then the only hard work they will put in is to scam people. If they spent the same amount of energy actually working like the rest of us…then their lives would be completely different.

      • That’s a really good point, Steve. It’s sad, honestly. This guy was obviously foreign, too — giving his own people a bad reputation. And he wasn’t even a very good scammer. He really hadn’t thought his ad through!

      • Yes, I’ve heard a lot of bad stories. My mom was almost scammed by some guy in Nigeria asking for golf lessons for his son who would be in the States over the summer. I can’t remember all of the details now, but it was a total crock. I was definitely too eager in the beginning to believe this guy. I really liked the place and wanted to believe that such a deal could be true. Alas… I learned a lesson. I am now a much more savvy Craigslist apartment searcher-outer. (I know that that’s not really a word, but it sounded cool!)

    • This guy obviously hadn’t thought his scam through. I only played his game for as long as I did because I’m pretty new to Craigslist. Now I know what to look for. If an ad doesn’t include pictures (he emailed those to me) and a realtor’s number, forget it. I’m glad Jon was there. He helped make things clear for me.

  4. $1,000 a month… for a room!!?? Whoa! I love the “I’m a good Christian” line. Reminds me of Gandhi’s quote: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    • Well, the ad was for a one-bedroom apartment. When we stopped by the exterior, it *did* look bigger than that, but we weren’t able to see inside since Kelvin was “in Ohio.” I love that Gandhi quote. What cracked me up was his sudden reference to being a Christian as though that should give validity to his ownership claim. What a crock.

  5. I used to use Craigslist for entertainment. The Best Of is pretty amusing… Good luck finding a place, Jessica.

  6. Okay, so first–I’m way behind. Didn’t know Jon had gotten a job out West. That’ll be a better commute. :0)

    Second, I have never used Craigslist, as I am neither a con man nor a serial killer. :0p

    Third, I don’t trust most of the “good Christians” I know. At least, not because they’re Christians…

    Which reminds me of a story from the laundromat yesterday: A guy who was asking me for bus fare began the request by asking if I was a church-going person. In Waco, 99% of the time, that question would elicit a positive response; there was a delightful little hiccup in the conversation when I told him I was not. Bit of a false start. I gave him the bus fare, mind you, but the look on his face when I answered the question was priceless. Absolutely priceless.

    • You’re not way behind. I hadn’t announced that Jon got a job out here until this post. I will be driving across the country with him in a few weeks.

      Craigslist isn’t all bad. You just have to be careful and trust your instincts.

      What cracked me up was the way the guy pulled the “I’m a good Christian” line, as though that would guarantee his honesty. It was such a scammer thing to say.

      I would have liked to see that guy’s face when you gave him the bus fare. :P

  7. I have only used craigslist once in my life when I traded my nintendo Wii for an xbox 360. I thoroughly questioned the individual until I was satisfied with all the answers. I only agreed to meet in a public location to make the trade face to face. I believe that craigslist is best used locally when you can meet the person face to face.

    • I fully agree. From here on out, if the ad doesn’t include pictures and a realtor’s phone number and a real person to show you the location, forget it. You have to be smart and trust your instincts.

  8. And once again the Body of Christ takes a hit because some con artist, when cornered, invokes the name. Terrific.

    • I just looked at it as a total joke. Here the guy was claiming Christianity as a way to validify the honesty of his ownership claim. Just because you say you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you’re a good person (and I really think he was just *saying* he was a Christian). It is sad, though.

  9. I blogged about this , Jessica. My parents ‘ bank acct was frozen because of that. We advertised a house for rent…. the scammer was from England who sent a manager’s check….. anyway, it’s a long story, but it’s similar to this.

    • Oh, wow. So sorry to hear that. I’m really glad we didn’t get scammed. We can’t afford to lose that kind of money right now… We actually called the realtor who was really listing the place to see if she knew about this guy. She was really thankful that we did and said that, no, she had no idea.

  10. Not to trivialize this cyber epidemic in the least, but I’ve heard and read 100’s of stories like this one. It not only exists in real estate, or financing-investments, or job sites, it can be and is just as rampant on dating sites as well. I’ve been on about 4-5 different dating sites (for several months) and I lost count how many “escorts” tried to con me into paying for “premium” dates! LOL

    To go along with your moral-of-the-story Jess, one of my indefinite mottos in life has become “always ALWAYS look a gift horse in the mouth! It may have wooden teeth, or worse, NO TEETH and an STD!” ;-)

    • Yeah, the internet has changed a lot of things and opened up a whole new realm for crime — you’re right, Professor. Glad you’ve managed to avoid being scammed so far. Looking at the gift horse in the mouth is excellent advice!!

  11. It is a bit disappointing to have to deal with such things, and lucky you both worked it out… Always a bit strange to conduct business without meeting face-to-face, but these days it is par for the course. It is an exciting move regardless, and so far off to an exciting start!

    • Yes, but I’d far rather be moving to Asia, haha. That’s not something Jon is too keen on just yet, but I’m working on it!! It *is* sad when people are dishonest, though. I tend to err on the side of being too trusting. I may not continue that trend from now on.

      • One of my best friends once told me “it is a cold, cold world out there, so never lose touch of the ones you love” and that is the truth. I think that is where we have little choice but to become a bit cynical about life (at least in comparisons to our idealistic youthful ideas). Happy things will work out, and there are opportunities in Asia for Jon too…

      • It is a cold, cold world out there. Your friend is right. I know there are opportunities for Jon, even if I have to drag him kicking and screaming… He’ll thank me for it later, though. I’m sure of it. ;)

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