Scam of the day – March 15, 2017 – Arrests made in Craigslist apartment rental scam

Police in Linden, New Jersey have arrested Allan Betancourt and Myra Sullivan on charges related to a scam in which they are accused of listing apartments they did not own for rent on Craigslist and swindling victims out of thousands of dollars of security deposits and upfront rental payments.

Craigslist is a popular place to go for people looking for a home or apartment to rent.  It is also a popular place for scammers to place phony ads to cheat unsuspecting victims.  Last year, New York University’s School of Engineering did a study entitled Understanding Craigslist Rental Scams in which they analyzed more than two million home and apartment rental ads for twenty cities and found that 29,000 of the ads were most likely scams.

The most common scam involved an ad for rental housing that required the person responding to the ad to obtain their credit score by clicking on a link in the email by which the scammer replied when the victim responded to the advertisement.  Under affiliate programs with companies that provide credit scores, the scammers would get up to $18 for every referral.  The victim ends up paying for a credit score he or she doesn’t need.

Other scammers place phony listings and trick people into wiring money as a security deposit or first month’s rent before the victim finds out that the scammer does not own the home.  It is a simple matter for a scammer to copy and paste a legitimate real estate advertisement or listing into the scammer’s Craigslist ad, often indicating a temptingly low rent. Unfortunately, once the victim finds out that the scammer never owned the property and the ad was a scam, it is too late to get his or her money back.

TIPS

The vast majority of the listings on Craigslist are legitimate, but you only have to be cheated once to feel the pain.  When the rent looks too good to be true, you should immediately be skeptical.  When the landlord is out of the country and wants you to wire money, you should be even more skeptical and if by out of the country we mean Nigeria, you should really be skeptical.  Scammers prefer people to wire money because unlike a check or a credit card payment, it is almost impossible to stop payment or get the money back.

If you are considering responding to a rental housing advertisement on Craigslist, confirm that the person who says he or she is the owner by going to the tax assessors listings which are available online.  If the names don’t match, that is a recipe for disaster.  Also, go on line and see if you can find a duplicate listing for the home advertised on Craigslist.

Here is a link to the NYU study http://engineering.nyu.edu/files/McCoycraigslist.pdf

Scam of the day – April 2, 2013 – Craigslist home rental scam

Craigslist is a popular place for people looking to rent a home or an apartment that can be very efficient and cost effective for landlords and tenants alike.  Unfortunately, it also is a very efficient way for scam artists to steal money from unwary people looking for a place to rent.  The scam usually starts with a real estate listing that looks very official and there is a good reason for that.  The listing is a real on line listing that has been copied by the scammer who merely puts in his or her name and contact information.  The price is usually very low which attracts a lot of potential tenants.  The potential tenants are usually told that the owner is out of the country and that there are many people interested in the property so if the tenant wants to be considered for renting it, the tenant has to wire money to the landlord somewhere outside of the country.  As I have warned you many times, wiring money is a scammers first choice because it is all but impossible to retrieve once you have found out that you have been scammed.  Too often, unwary potential tenants wire the money and never hear anything further from the scam landlord.  And as for the money, it is gone forever.

TIPS

There are a number of red flags to look for in Craigslist rental scams.  First, as always, if the price is too good to be true, it usually is just that – not true.  Also be wary of landlords who are out of the country and cannot meet with you in person.  Never pay a deposit or any other money to a landlord or his or her agent whom you do not meet in person and take you into the property.  Scammers won’t have keys.  You also can check out who really is the owner by going on line to the tax assessor’s office of the city or town where the property is located and look up who the real owner is.  If the names don’t match, it is a scam.  This is how I found out in time that a Craigslist real estate listing that my own son and daughter-in-law were considering was a scam.  You also can Google the address of the property.  If you find that it is being listed by legitimate real estate agencies for sale, this is a good indication that the listing was forged from one of the legitimate real estate agencies.  Taking a few careful steps can protect you from becoming a victim of this scam.