In largely user-generated communities, it’s always pretty impressive to see how quickly inappropriate behavior gets busted by the user community. In my latest housing search, I ran into one of those “too good to be true” sort of postings, and received the following message from the would-be scammer. Pretty neat to note that the first alert I received was from the posting being flagged for removal by the Craigslist community.

Hi ,

Just a few more info. Equal size-2 bedrooms/2 bathrooms, 1300 sq. ft., washer/dryer in unit, A/C, dishwasher, parking — 1 included in the rent, safe neighbourhood, nice neighbours, very quiet, no noise, close to transportation and everything else. It’s fully furnished, but i can rent it unfurnished too, same price if unfurnished, if you want it unfurn i will use a moving company. As i said, pets are allowed. Building has maintenance-included in the price. The length of the lease is flexible: long/short term. The thing is that i live and i am in Greece, Athens and i want to rent the apartment. I wanted to rent it 1 month ago too and came to SF to show it to someone who wanted to rent it, but when i met the guy he said that he wanted to rent the apartment for less than my asking price even if he didn’t see the apartment and i ended up returning to Greece and wasting my valuable time. I would have understood if he first seen the apartment and then to refuse it-no problem, but he asked me for much less knowing that i came all the way from Greece, but i didn’t want to rent it for less than i asked.

Anyway, at the advise of my lawyer i don’t want to use a building manager or someone like that and i don’t have anyone there, i want to do it in person, but with someone serious, so, i want to propose you something like a third party to handle this for us because i don’t want to end up in the same above situation and i’ll be SURE that you are determined and WANT to rent an apartment and you are serious and not a time waster (no offence) and you will SEE the apartment before i HAVE the funds in hands:

Let’s use www.escrow.com

In short, here is how it works:

1. You Will deposit into the www.escrow.com account account 4000USD.

2. As per escrow.com policy i would have to send you the keys and you have 5 days to decide if you like the merchandise(apartment) or not. But i will not send you the keys, i will come in person with the keys and a leasing contract So, by the time you deposit the funds to escrow i will be there in 3 days and show you the apartment, if you like it sign the lease and escrow.com will send the funds to my account

3. If you do not like the apartment, inform www.escrow.com about that and they’ll refund you in the same day.

If you agree on these terms: amount to be deposited: $4000, i pay the escrow fees: $80, please make an account with www.escrow.com , e-mail me and i will start a new transaction with them. Do not start it yourself, let me start it.

Thanks to the internet form of the ‘neighborhood crime watch’ for keeping more people away from this. Though for me it really does beg the question — why do people even bother with reporting this? Vigilante glory? This probably works the best in situations where there is collective benefit derived from making the community safer for everyone, and real harm from malicious behavior. Not really, I would argue, something that applies to a YouTube. Who else is doing a good job of doing this?