How To Protect Yourself From Roommate Scams In NYC

By: ROS Team

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It is noticed that in Covid-19 situations renters are searching for new roommates. With simple tips, you can easily find a roommate for you. Undoubtedly, Having a roommate helps you save on rent and other utilities. The cost of rent and utilities is split between you and your roommate. This way, you can afford a nicer, larger apartment than you could if you were managing it on your own. No wonder why many renters have roommates in NYC.

But you should be careful while looking for a roommate.

Many scammers are posing as a roommate to trick people into giving money. Once they get the money, they get disappeared. Most people don’t even realize that they are trapped unless they lose their money. This is especially true for those who find roommates online.

How Does The Roommate Scam Work?

Scammers contact you from elsewhere that they are interested in sharing the room with you. However, they also tell you that they are not able to visit as they are overseas or due to their tight work schedules. To cover it up, they claim to be a student, IT technician, or a model. They also ask you for the total amount of rent as well as how much they have to pay.

Send you a check, or some kind of international money order, for more than the total amount required to secure your room. They might say it is a money order for their paycheck or scholarship. Some of them contact you to inform you that they made a mistake and overpaid you. For example, the room costs per $1000 per month but the scammer sends a check for $ 3000.

How Scam Works

They would request you to send the difference back to them via wire transfer.

This is where the scam comes in.

You will deposit this money order or check into your account. The bank will accept this as you are getting this into your account. They might even cash it if you have an account with them. When you send them back the difference or “overpaid” amount, you’re actually sending them your money, and the bank will deduct the full amount of the fraudulent check from your account when it is not cleared. This way, a scammer tricks you into giving money and gets disappeared.

Now you must have understood how a scammer can cheat you by posing as a roommate. Sadly, many top listing sites are used by scammers to find the targets looking for a roommate.

Therefore, you need to be careful while looking for a roommate. And these tips will help you avoid falling into the roommate scam.

1. Trust Your Gut Instinct:

If you think that a prospective roommate must be up to something, walk away. In other words, you need to trust your gut feeling in that case.

2. Avoid Paying Through Wire Transfer:

As you have already known that a scammer is likely to ask you to pay back the “difference” through wiring money via Western Money or a similar service. The amount is bigger than the actual rent amount and the scammer claims that the extra money is for their college fees, airfare, and other commitments that should be sent to them or a third party.

3. Ask Them to Make First Payment in Cash or Through Online Transfer:

Checks and money orders can be fake and can take weeks to get cleared by your bank. On top of that, you can be held liable for phony checks deposited into your account.

Cash or Through Online

It is better to avoid receiving payments through money orders or international checks.

Ask them to transfer the money online to your bank account. A genuine applicant shouldn’t have any problem with this payment method. Isn’t it?

Read Also: What Are the Apartment Lease Options When Renting with Roommates

4. Meet them in Person:

Ask your potential roommate to meet in person. If they are a scammer, they are less likely to get interested and can avoid meeting on the pretext of tight work commitments, out-of-town residence, traveling, and other issues. To assure you of their credibility, they may send you their photo.

Be more careful if the communication is made only through emails between you. Also, beware of the foreigners as scammers usually live outside the US to spare prosecutions. If the applicant is from abroad, their mail is likely to contain a lot of spelling and grammatical mistakes.

Meet in Person

5. Assess Email Address and Other Point of Contact:

According to one study, scammers use Outlook accounts more than Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail accounts. If the mail comes from a domain name, visit it to see if it is real. Also, check their social media links to find out if they are really who they claim to be. If the account has been set up a month ago, it might be a red flag pointing toward something malicious.

Final Words:

Although finding a roommate can ease your burden of rent, be careful while looking for them or you can hire professionals to search right roommate for you. You never know when your potential roommate can turn out to be a scammer. Even some scammers can use new tricks. Whatever they use, make sure to ask them to pay online instead of using money orders or checks.

Related Article:

5 Things To Do If Your Roommate Is Quarantining
Best Ways How To Find Roommates In NYC