I know a lot of people who have looked for and been successful in finding an apartment and/or a roommate on Craigslist. If you are looking for an apartment on Craigslist right now—listen up.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced yesterday (January 18, 2017) that it has charged Credit Bureau Center LLC and three individuals associated with it for “luring consumers with fake rental property ads and deceptive promises of ‘free’ credit reports into signing up for a costly credit monitoring service.”

The scam worked like this: the company placed Craigslist ads for fake rental properties or properties that it didn’t have authority to offer to renters. When people responded to the Craigslist ads, the individuals associated with the company impersonated property owners and sent emails offering tours if consumers would first obtain their credit reports and scores from their website.

Although the sites claimed that the credit reports and scores were free, when consumers provided information in order to obtain the credit report and score, they were automatically enrolled in a credit monitoring service that cost $29.95 per month, which was continuing and was deducted from bank accounts or charged to credit cards.

The sites in question include eFreeScore.com, CreditUpdates.com and FreeCreditNation.com.

The FTC has filed a complaint to stop the defendants from the practice and to return the money to consumers who were scammed. Good for the FTC!

Here are a couple of tips as takeaways from these facts and this case:

1) Don’t give your Social Security number or other personal information to anyone through a website (you need to give a Social Security number in order to get a credit report, so these consumers probably entered their Social Security number into the website in order to get enrolled in the services);

  2) Be careful about giving debit card or credit card numbers into websites if you are not actually purchasing an item (in this case, the consumers were supposed to be getting a free credit report, so why would they give their credit or bank account information, which the FTC says were continuously charged); and

3) Only get your free annual credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.