Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Seeking Counsel

This post was written by Kip Morse, your BBB Serving Central Ohio's President and CEO.

A little over a month ago, my daughter reached out to me during her apartment search. She and her friend had seen an apartment ad on Craigslist and emailed the poster. The response she received seemed questionable, so she asked for my opinion:

Date: April 19, 2016 at 10:22:46 AM EDT
To: Kip Morse
Subject: Fw: Craigslist Apartment Ad

Yo Dad!
Do you think this sounds legitimate for an apartment showing?

-----Original Message-----
To: burnson@howtorent.xyz
Sent: Sun, Apr 17, 2016 4:11:08 PM
Subject: Craigslist Apartment Ad
Hello, We saw your Craigslist ad and are very interested in the 3 bedroom apartment in Ravenswood. Could we set up a time to talk more about the apartment? Feel free to reach out to us via this email address or at XXX-XXX-XXXX. We look forward to hearing from you!

From: Cassandra Burnson
Sent: Monday, April 18, 2016 8:57 PM
Subject: RE: Craigslist Apartment Ad
Hello Morse,,

Thank you for your interest in the property listed for rent. You were the second to reach out from the ad. The first prospective renter no longer had to move because of his home situation. So we give the opportunity to you. We are currently prepared to rent with flexible terms and just finished all new renovations. We will work together with you on move in date, lease security deposit and length.

I know you desire the exact address of the property but we do want not to disclose the address before you're qualified. We have had a string of break-ins, squatters and thefts at our other properties. We want to avoid that with this property due to the renovations that have cost plenty of money. You are going to be the first to move in with the renovations.

All utilities are priced into the lease along with garage parking spaces. The appliances in the kitchen as well as laundry room were just installed. You have the option to pick your paint color and flooring before your move in

When you're ready to schedule an appointment to see the place, then please go to the link below to get your report. We recommend this site because all of our tenants used it and haven't had any problems. All you need to do is fill out the form and you get your report We aren't interested in specifics of your report, it's more of a formality to ensure you have rental history. You can get your report by CLICKING HERE

Remember, print out the report and bring it to the tour.. We'll waive your security deposit if your score is above 560+.

Once you let me know that you have your report ready, then I can personally schedule a showing of the place.

See you soon,

Right away, I knew that something was up. I double checked with one of our Investigations Team members who confirmed that my daughter definitely shouldn’t respond.

To me, the first red flag was when the poster withheld the address. She gave an excuse as to why, but businesses should always be transparent. How is my daughter supposed to agree to live in an apartment she has never even seen? And how do we know that this apartment actually exists?

Furthermore, the link sent to my daughter allowing her to access her credit report was a site I didn’t necessarily trust. I know we shouldn’t always click on links embedded in emails. After my daughter applies, the administrative staff should be able to look up all of the information that they need without sending any potential renter to a third party site to give up their personal information. The possibility of her security deposit being waived also raised suspicion.

I was proud of my daughter for coming to me when she was in doubt. It reminded me of the UncommonSense character ethic, “Seeking Counsel”:

“High character people seek wise counsel when confronted with ethically ambiguous issues...People naturally seek input or ideas from leaders, peers, and subordinates, regarding their analyses or plans.”

Although my daughter was not the one exhibiting ethic ambiguousness, she still sought out help and advice when she needed it. She was not too proud to assume she knew how to handle the situation, and instead showed wisdom by reaching out to someone who could help or provide more information. I did the same thing by asking an Investigations Team member for their input, because I did not want to have the final say without seeking counsel myself.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that BBB has seen instances like this, and it probably won’t be the last. You can learn more here.

Anyone can be scammed, and when you feel unsure, no matter what the situation, it never hurts to ask others for advice. It only helps you become wiser.

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