The Craigslist Apartment or Rental Scam
A lot of you out there are probably going through hard times and are looking for some cheap places to live. So you go on Craigslist and look around for reasonably priced apartments. This scam is more prevalent in big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, but it can happen anywhere. There are a few variations and some can be bad for your wallet, and others bad for your health.
The bad for your wallet Apartment Scam:
You see a Craigslist apartment listing and decide to make contact. If you have read through a few of my posts you already know about the fake emails so I wont go into that again. So you contact this potentially fake email or redirected phone number. The person tells you how great the apartment is and that it is available. So you decide to set up a meeting and see the apartment. Here is where it gets tricky. There are many variations, and many ways this can go wrong. Some are more obvious and some more convoluted. In some cases you have a middle man attempting to lease out or rent a real apartment. (In some cases the apartment may not even exist.) So this middle man gets information from you and the landlord and plays both sides against each other. This can be very lengthy to explain, but the crux of the matter is that they will try to get money from you as a down payment acting on behalf of the landlord or as the landlord himself. What the end result is, is that when you show up to move in with your signed rental agreement (lease) the real landlord will not have any knowledge of getting a deposit from you and will turn you away.
Another version (the most common on Craigslist) is the one where an apartment is listed and pictures posted. This pictures are generally stolen from the web listing of any apartment and may have no relation to the apartment being listed. The person lists the apartment (house or condo) for rent and gives you a lengthy convoluted story about why they had to leave the country and are not able to show it to you. That they have family problems or are doing missionary work in Africa or any number of things to tug at your heart and make you feel that this is a good honest person. You cant see the apartment in advance but you can send your deposit to them in another country, or send the money to their property manager or rental agent in another country, and they will send you the keys in return. They may even have a lease sent back and forth just to seem more believable. The entire point is that everything has to be done in advance and through the web and when you get down to it, you just lost your hard earned money. If they claim to use escrow companies or property managers that is just another way to make you feel more comfortable but the end result is still the same. Your Money will go by by.
* Never give money to someone over the internet or sign a lease that is faxed to you or emailed to you.
* Never wire money to rental agencies or property managers over seas.
* Never rent an apartment or house site unseen (this is the easiest way to get scammed).
* This type of scam works best with people that are really busy and try to do everything over the web or by phone.
Here is a video explanation of these types of scams: