No one thinks they're going to get catfished. If you're anything like me, you believe you're more than capable of outsmarting a scam. That is, until a professional con artist gets a hold of you.
Let's backtrack to a few months ago…
Like any young college grad, I couldn't wait to move out of my parents' house and get my own apartment in New York City. I was ready to be independent. I had an awesome roommate-to-be, a new Keurig waiting to be used, and some second-hand furniture on standby. All I had to do was find a reasonably priced apartment and sign my name on the dotted line.
After countless searches on Trulia and Zillow we found a few diamonds in the rough. Slowly but surely my inbox was bombarded with apartment rental information and new vacancies. Our weekends were dedicated to the search and we were able to put a few bids on some pretty nice apartments. I was loving the thrill.
But, a few months went by and we were still apartment-less. Something needed to be done. So I appealed to the infamously murky waters of Craigslist.
"It can't be so bad," I thought while scrolling through the site. I figured since a few of my college friends found decent jobs on there and were still alive, I could at least find an apartment.
After a few hours, I refreshed the page one last time and finally saw it: a beautiful 2-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn posted 10 minutes earlier. The perfect price, the perfect location, the perfect everything; I swear it had our names on it. Did I mention it was perfect?
I immediately took a screenshot and forwarded the picture and description to my roommate. I began to craft an email to the landlord. I buffed up our job descriptions, bragged about our credit scores, and inquired about viewing.
For the rest of the night I continued to refresh my inbox praying for a response. Finally, the next morning, the long-awaited message was there…
I appreciated how harmless this Ella character was and respected her "precautions."
I immediately filled out the "free credit score" form she'd provided to prove that we were the perfect candidates. I was confident we would soon be on our way to two-bedroom nirvana.
Days went by and no response. Maybe she had a busy schedule or was working on securing other deals?
After several follow-ups and no response, it finally hit me. Could I have been conned?
I Googled parts of the email and saw a slew of search results under "SPAM" and "DON'T BELIEVE IT!" My heart began to race. This couldn't be real.
When I mustered up the courage to face my bank account, I noticed a few oddities: an Amazon.com purchase of $10.23, a Wal-Mart charge of $673.52 in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and a another purchase I definitely did not make for $301.
Still in disbelief, I grabbed my debit card and dialed the customer service number that was on the back. I could barely bring myself to share the story with the customer service representative. I was so ashamed.
"It's okay," the representative assured me. "It happens to the best of us."
A few days after my discovery and my official initiation into the LifeLock Ultimate Plus Membership plan, I got my money back from the bank.
I wish I could say I was heroic enough to fill out a police report about "Ella Jones." It probably would've saved some other people from my fate. But I chose to move on with my tail tucked between my legs.
Of course, I learned more than a few lessons from the experience. The biggest? Don't trust anything on the internet that seems too good to be true.
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