Guess what? I foiled a crime!

Published 11:15 am Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why did I insert that parenthetical? I&squo;m glad you asked. I&squo;ll be living with three close friends of mine, who will surely keep me in that state of arrested development necessary to stave off full adulthood for a few more years. Anyhoo, not all of my roommates will be living with me this summer. One will, but another will be staying with us only sporadically, and the third will be spending his summer in China. This China summer-spender, also known as &dquo;Tucker&dquo; (not his real name) wanted to sublet (rent) his room for the summer, because he didn&squo;t want to pay rent on a room that he wouldn&squo;t be sleeping in.He put an ad out on Craigslist, the completely serial-killer-free and generally non-dangerous website that functions as sort of an Internet version of the local want ads.He quickly received three e-mail responses. One was from a 42-year-old man working as a translator in Malaysia who was about to move back to the United States; another was from a woman who could not speak English very well (her e-mail, according to Tucker, did not contain a single period); and a third was from a recent UNC graduate who was about to enter the Air Force. Tucker conferred with me, because even though he was dealing with them at that moment, I would be, ya know, living with whomever he chose to rent his room to.I told him that first off, I didn&squo;t want to live with a girl, regardless of her proficiency (or lack thereof) with the English language. I just don&squo;t want to subject a female to the slothful disgustingness that is my day-to-day existence. That, and I didn&squo;t want her to fall in love with me ‐ I&squo;ve got a girlfriend, after all. Then I broke the news that I couldn&squo;t live with somebody who&squo;s 42; I don&squo;t want to live with an actual adult. That&squo;s just weird. That left the future Air Force person, who unfortunately had made other living arrangements by the time Tucker got back to him.Tucker was heartbroken. He began mentally prepping himself to fork over the rent. Then, like a ray of sunlight piercing the clouds on a stormy day, he received an e-mail from Benita. O Benita, how Tucker sung her praises! She was a 26-year-old Spaniard currently living with her mother in Africa and had a Master&squo;s degree in fashion

design. And she wanted to move to Chapel Hill! And she was a part-time model! And she was Catholic! And she wanted to pay all her rent upfront! Tucker was ecstatic at having found his subletter.&bsp; My other roommate was nervously excited for what he was sure to be a zany and very sitcom-esque summer living experience. I, on the other hand, was convinced that this Benita character was a serial killer. Anyone with that interesting a back-story who would want to live with 22-year-old dudes for a summer was definitely the type who would interrupt my mid-afternoon couch nap by standing over me wielding a battle-axe, ready to strike. What can I say? I&squo;m deeply, deeply paranoid of strangers.So, doing what anyone who is really, really, really concerned about their safety would do, I jumped into action. And by that, I mean I searched for Benita on Google. I couldn&squo;t find her on the Internet, which is extremely rare. Believe it or not, pretty much everyone is mentioned somewhere on the Internet. Most of the Tryon Daily Bulletin&squo;s readers have probably been mentioned in the paper at some point, and since the Bulletin has an online site, you the reader are probably mentioned on the Internet somewhere too. So Benita&squo;s complete lack of a presence on the web was quite odd, especially when you consider that if she had a degree in fashion design, she probably would have designed some clothes that would have won some sort of award or something, and that would definitely have gotten mentioned on the Internet. I began to stop wondering if Benita was a serial killer and started to question whether she even existed. What if &dquo;Benita&dquo; was a scam?I again fired up the ol&squo; Google and this time searched for &dquo;Craigslist roommate scams.&dquo; One of the first search results was a site warning readers against someone who claimed to be a Spanish fashion design student/part-time model currently living in Africa who wished to rent a room, paying her part of the rent upfront.It was a scam! The way it works is that the scam artist offers to pay their share of the rent before they get to America, and then they send a check for several thousand dollars more than the necessary amount, asking the future roommate to deposit it and send back another check with the balance. The check that the scammer sends is faulty, and the check that the scammer receives is legitimate. The scammer never shows up to move in, and the poor victim is in the hole for several thousand dollars (as well as a roommate, I guess).As quickly as I could, I called Tucker, hoping to reach him in time to call off an agreement with the non-existent Benita that would involve him forking over eight million dollars (that&squo;s just an estimate) to some foreign criminal, presumably with a diabolical-looking moustache and no history of modeling work. As I waited for him to pick up the phone, I felt like the guy who has to race to the church in order to interrupt a wedding by yelling &dquo;I object!&dquo; whenever the reverend is all like, &dquo;Whoever objects to this union, speak now or forever hold your peace.&dquo;When Tucker picked up the phone, I yelled &dquo;I object! Um, I mean, it&squo;s a scam!&dquo;Fortunately, I had reached him in time. He e-mailed Benita and told her that he wouldn&squo;t be able to sublet his room to her, and soon found a real, actual person to rent his room to for the summer.Sadly though, he&squo;s not a part-time model.

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