Is This "Too Good to Be True" Apartment a Scam?

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Q: How does a poor college student facing a fantastic opportunity tell if she is being scammed? I am relocating to Chicago and found an apartment on CL that is actually a 2br 2ba condo for $800/month, downtown. I've been looking for myself and an exchange student, and the pickings are slim compared to this. The pictures are amazing, it's 4 blocks from the art school I'll be attending, and the only utility to pay is electric. It's a dream come true! Except I'm scared that it's fake…

After a few email exchanges, the owner (traveling on business) wishes to have me fill out a very legitimate legal document then wire via Western Union a hold deposit of $800 before he will fly back to show me the apartment.
I would need to start my lease on the 12th of this month!

He does claim that the deposit is refundable and provide 2 email references, but when it comes down to it I have no solid proof of this person or property being available.

So my question is, what can I ask for as proof that I won't get ripped off?

The place is so incredible, but I'm scared that if I wire the money I won't hear back from him AND I'll be out 800 clams.

What's a girl to do?

Sent by: A Student

Editor: Can anyone help this student out with ideas on how to handle this situation? Share yours in the comments below — thanks!

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Janel Laban is the Executive Editor of Apartment Therapy and has been working here, at the dreamiest of dream jobs, since March 2006.