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During the times I’ve posted an advertisement looking for a roommate, I’ve never fallen victim to a scammer(knock on wood).  A reader, Nise from Georgia recently contacted me about rental agreements because her roommate was moving in rather soon.  I began to ask the reader questions and it resembled the likings of a scammer.  I immediately told her to stop all communications with her and not to wire or deposit any more.  Thanks to my intervention, I was able to prevent Nise from being a victim of a scam.  She has agreed to share her story as a learning experience for pointers to picking out scam during e-mail exchanges.

Enter Nise:

There is a person who calls herself Dawn Ellis. Her email address is dddolls96@yahoo.com, who is pretending to be interested in renting your room.  She seems really nice and very professional at first, and then the signs of scamming begin to emerge.  I will start by saying look for signs and discrepancies in your emails exchanges.  This person misspelled a lot of words.  She contradicted herself a couple times in her email exchanges.   She stated that she was a woman of integrity and of great dignity and would never get involved in any dubious acts.

Well the only problem I had with that is I did not know her, so how would I know that she was what she was claiming to be?

Okay, anyway let me share with you briefly about this scam I came close to becoming a victim to.

This Dawn Ellis person asked for room details and asked me to text a picture of my house.  Now, I don’t text people pictures of my house, my intent was to send her a picture of the room.  Anyway I stated to her that I would send pictures of my spare room only if she gave me her phone number, so that I could text the pictures to her. Well I did not receive a phone number (This is where the scam began to brew) and did not send her any pictures.

Without any pictures of the room, she was still content with the room and insisted on the details for the payment.  I guess she felt unsafe giving her phone number to someone she met on the internet.  So, next I sent her the details concerning the room and rent amount.

SIDE NOTE: ALWAYS, ALWAYS talk on the phone with your potential roommate several times before meeting them in person so that you can hear their voice and get a feel for their personality.  And of Course the no brainer is, ” Never let anyone move into your room until you meet face-to-face.”

So, I received another email stating that her supervisor would be sending me a check in the mail.  She stated that the check would be in the form of a cashier’s check in the mail sent by USPS Courier.

Next, this Dawn Ellis person stated in her email that she found a shipper that will be moving her things, but that he (the shipper) insisted on advance payment, before proceeding with the shipment. She stated that as soon as I received the cashier’s check, to take it to my bank and deduct the fee for my room, and to send her part of the balance through the WESTERN UNION office to her shipper ASAP.

SIDE NOTE: Now wouldn’t it have made more sense to have your supervisor to cut two checks one for the room and one for the shipper. It’s really her job to pay her shipper, not mine. This is when I knew something wasn’t right. So I emailed her and told her that I would not be sending her any money and that I did not want to do any business with her because this was a scam.  I cut off all communication with her. I did not send any more emails.

SIDE NOTE: Never except money in the mail always except in person. Make a hand-to-hand transaction always. And never send any amounts of money via Western Union back to someone for any reason….It is a SCAM! They will tell you to send some money back to them via Western Union directly to their shipper or send them some money so that they can pay their shipper themselves…..Nonsense. Don’t fall for this trick.

She sent me a reply email as if like she did not believe me when I stated to her that I will not be doing any business with her anymore.  She insisted that it was fine that I did not send any money to the shipper, but that she needed me to send some amount out of the balance to her to pay her shipper, so that her things could be picked up.

When I told her that I realized that this was a scam and that I was not sending her any money.  She emailed me that she was a woman of great dignity, integrity, and that she would never get involved in any dubious act!

I hope that anyone that reads my story will feel more equipped and feel smarter when dealing with roommate scammers.  Anytime you feel that something is not right email Mike.  He’s the one that alerted me about the scam I was about to fall victim to when I contacted him about rental agreements.

When in doubt talk or tell someone what is going on before you fall victim to someone trying to scam you out of your money.  We are in a recession and people are desperate committing fraudulent acts!  Always stay on the alert and don’t be anxious for nothing.  Stay calm, pay attention talk to someone and make smart decisions.

Also, as a result of dealing with this scammer, I lost a legitimate renter and have more headaches to deal with.   Since I failed to respond to a legitimate roommate on roommates.com by the available date of my room I stated in my profile, she thought that maybe I was a fraud for failing to respond and so she reported me to fraud alert on Roommates.com.

I am presently still looking for a roommate and I am not a scammer.   I want to get that fraud alert off of my roommate account that I received dealing with this scam because I did lose  potential roommates from it.  I received several emails of people interested in renting out my room and I did not respond back to them because I thought that this Dawn Ellis person was a real potential roommate.

Boy scammers really cost you time and money. This was a crazy experience I hope I never have to go through this again. This was really more than I could bear, even though it could have been much worse.


I hope that we can all learn from Nise’s experience.  The key take away here is to always deal in person. Never ever send money to someone you have not met.  I can’t stress this last part enough.

  • Jeffrey March 23, 2012, 1:57 pm

    I’ve heard of this scam for a lot of things on Craigslist, beyond even just room.

    The key takeaway: never accept Western Union money orders. It’s almost a sure sign of a scam (and that’s why Craigslist says so explicitly right on their page)

    • Mike March 24, 2012, 9:57 pm

      Jeff, yeah I had the something happen to me when I was selling a laptop. I received tons of replies to see if they could mail a check since they were located in another city.

  • jp September 15, 2012, 8:11 pm

    I had an interesting one:
    Someone listed my rental on craigslist under my brothers name. Used the exact same ad my management company used, just changed the contact info and added some sob story of why they needed to quickly & cheaply rent out *MY* condo. Some poor family fell for it, and were shipped a set of keys. When the keys didn’t work (obviously, b/c these people don’t have keys to my home) they tried to get in through a window. Thank goodness I have nosey neighbors! They had wired this person (people?) money through Western Union.


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