I like to pride myself on being pretty switched on and smart. I adore watching Catfish, yet struggle to understand fully how people can be so easy to believe what they want to believe (rather than the truth). However, I was reminded yesterday that when we're desperate enough, our vulnerability levels increase, and it's easy to let hope blind us.
I've been flat-hunting, which as ever, is pretty soul destroying in London. Seeing 'flat' after 'flat' where you sleep next to your cooker gets pretty depressing. So then when you glance a flat, a gleamingly delicious flat, that just seems to be affordable, you get excited and drop them a message.
I got an email back, with some more photos of the flat, and a lady explaining the rent etc. I just got so excited. Perhaps I'd found the hidden diamond in the rough, a lady who had moved away for work, and just needed to rent her flat out while she was away. My heart raced; perhaps I really can live like a grown up after all?!
I started to sniff the dirty elephant in the room when 'she' explained that she wasn't sure how best to proceed, as she recently flew back to London for someone who didn't show up. So I popped back to Gumtree, as I recall them running some in-house ads.
Gumtree have been sponsoring some 'fake' profiles, with advice how not to get caught out in housing scams. And there it was, an example of a similar email. The landlord is far away, has had missed appointments before, so needs some sort of reassurance before arranging an appointment. They'll push for a deposit before meeting. DO NOT DO THIS.
Luckily I didn't get any further than these initial emails. And it didn't happen to me just once! But I bet others aren't always so lucky. Housing is stressful, and we're often feeling panicked and rushed when we're looking. We may not have done it many times before. And its a lot of money. So we need to be careful.
So here is some advice when looking to move:
1. If the price stands out as being too good to be true, it often is.
2. Never pay a deposit before viewing a property.
3. If they have some long convoluted story around the rental probably means they're spinning a yarn. Be on your hightest tippy toes.
Last year I wrote about the housing crisis over on the Huffington Post - go and have a read!