Sometimes searching for a rental home on Craigslist can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. And identity thieves have allegedly found a way to throw a monkey wrench into the process.
According to one Reddit user, fraudsters are using the online classifieds site to pilfer prospective renters’ personal information. The gimmick is simple: When a renter contacts someone about a listing they saw on the site, they receive a message asking for their credit report, along with a link to access it. “We recommend this site because all our tenants used it and haven’t had a problems,” the apartment lister wrote.
Taking it a step further, the messenger says they want to confirm they have an updated credit report before scheduling a tour.
The Reddit commenter explains the rest:
I was surprised by the quality of the writing, but not so surprised to see “CLICKING HERE” pointed to an extremely suspicious URL that ran through several redirects before landing on a “credit check” website that exists purely to steal your information and charge you a monthly fee for future credit reports.
Craigslist did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It does advise users to never give out personal information (including Social Security numbers), to refrain from renting or purchasing sight-unseen and to refuse background or credit checks until you have met an employer or landlord in person.
Things to Remember
While it’s helpful to know where your credit stands, especially as some landlords check this information during the application process, you won’t need to pull your own reports before viewing a listing. This is not required, as the Reddit commenter points out, and anyone who asks for this information before you’ve even set foot in a potential new home may not have your best interests in mind. But if you want to pull your credit reports for your own knowledge, you can do so safely and for free by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also view two of your credit scores, updated monthly, for free on Credit.com.
Credit reports contain sensitive personal information, including your Social Security number and birth date, and sharing them with a stranger can lead to all sorts of headaches. Think: credit accounts being opened in your name, sky-high charges on your credit cards and the embarrassment of having your card declined. And that’s just the beginning of all the damage ID theft can cause, so make sure you’re careful during the rental process.
Jill Krasny writes for Credit.com, where this article originally appeared.