We’ve all done our share of Google background checks, especially after meeting a new friend, new crush or potential job lead. Now, in a plot twist that reads like a 21st century Single White Female, the search engine has helped one woman bust a serial scammer who became her new roommate.
The Oregon Statesman-Journal reports that a woman accused of befriending people throughout the state of Oregon, then stealing their cash or running up huge charges on their credit cards, has been nabbed in Los Angeles.
This happened after her new roommate – the tipster – called the LAPD and said that she and the scammer had met three weeks prior and become instant BFFs. However, after noticing that something seemed off about her new housemate’s descriptions of her background, the tipster called the cops. It turns out that the 24-year-old suspect had been scamming people for the past three years – and even stolen a car from her own sister.
I’ve done my share of roommate and/or tenant background checks – below are my tips to ensure that using Craigslist doesn’t lead to parting with cash.
1. Don’t rely on the credit check
Credit checks can give you helpful information that can help gauge a potential roommate or tenant’s financial history, income and ability to pay. But a credit check is NOT the same thing as a character check – and many scammers appear to have decent credit history because they keep multiple cards open with just the minimum balance paid – or because they have stolen multiple identities.
2. Check social security numbers
A private investigator can run a check on a subject’s social security number, which can contain a wealth of information. The social security number can, among other things, ensure that you are checking out the right person – and that the potential tenant isn’t using a dead guy’s identity (this happens more often than you might think).
3. Check address history
A complete address history is essential when looking for someone to share your space. Pay especially close attention if the subject is older than his or her early twenties and gives a parent’s or close relative’s address as their only point of contact- they could be omitting unpaid landlord and friends. Address history should also include liens on properties, lawsuits related to the address, evictions and other names linked to accounts. Which brings me to my final point:
4. ALWAYS make phone calls
There is no substitute for picking up the phone to call references – not just the ones that the subject provides, but anyone else who may have information about a candidates history. A good investigator can provide names and telephone numbers of former and current neighbors and colleagues to help get the complete story.