Craigslist Apartment Rental Scams

Craigslist’s New York apartment classifieds are a con artist favorite, bilking individuals and families out of their hard-earned deposit and rent money.

Fraud in New York City’s Craigslist classifieds has become so pervasive that Craigslist has considered charging a fee for its ads. Their hope is that by putting a charge in place, they will discourage phony listings. Most of these fraudulent postings are common bait and switch schemes. However, some of the cases reported involved more elaborate schemes run by professional criminals. These scam artists have managed to bilk apartment seekers for thousands of dollars.

Everyone knows how competitive the New York apartment market is, with too many people looking for far too few apartments. Some bold con artists have capitalized on this situation and used it to their advantage.

In one of the worst cases we found a woman who promised a small studio apartment to several dozen different people. She collected enough money from each hopeful tenant in the form of rent and security deposits to make off with over $60,000.

This may not be the most common apartment scam on Craigslist but it’s not unique. People sub-renting the same apartment to multiple people and making off with their money are numerous enough that anyone using Craigslist or any other online service should thoroughly check out their landlord before handing over their money.

Tips for avoiding Craigslist apartment rental scams

  • Ask to see the landlord’s ID – record all the information you can from it.
  • Use a browser to search for the person’s name who you’re dealing with. Be sure to add quotes around their name. You could add the words “fraud” or “scam” at the end of your search terms.
  • Use reverse directory look up if the person has given you their telephone number. It’s important to double check that they are who they say they are.
  • Visit the local county courthouse to look up property ownership for the apartment in question. Who really owns it? Is it the person you’re dealing with? Or someone else?
  • Scan any provided photographs carefully. Do they match up with what you’ve seen in person? Do they look like they all came from the same place?
  • They don’t ask for an application or permission to check your credit? That’s a red flag!
  • Considering the current state of our economy and the rise in foreclosures, ask the landlord if they’re current on their mortgage payments, and then get their answer in writing.
  • Consider using another method for obtaining a rental, i.e. real estate agent, going through a rental agency, etc…

Read more about Online Rental Scams:

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4 Responses

  1. pauline says:

    My home is being used as a scam on Craigslist. How can I have it removed from the scammers profile!????????

  2. Dana says:

    i had found a home for rent it seemed like a really good deal so i emailed the person. I got an email back saying that they will be gone for 3 to 4 years or more, and that they want someone to live and take care of their home. they sent me the address of the home, and told me to fill out the application, and that once i sent the money they would send me the keys. i didn’t fill anything out, i told them i was going to drive past the house and peek in the window. when i did i felt so back because a lady, the homeowner, came to the door. i told her about craigslist and the emails, she was an older lady and told me that she doesn’t know how to email, and that she is 100% selling her house, not renting. I told her how sorry i was for bothering her, and she was very sweet and said that it was okay. i feel bad because someone is trying to get 500 for rent, and 500 for a deposit on her home that she owns. i dont want this to happen to someone else.

    • Larry J Hoffman says:

      I am going thru the same problem right now on a rental home in Erie, PA. I went and looked at the home and it was vacant, I sent $500 deposit and fined out today that the person does not own the home. I filed a police report and told the officer that i am supposed to give the rest of money tomorrow. So i figure we set this person up, police tell me they can’t do that….. So i dont know what i am going to do. I am out $500 and have to be out of my current home at end of the month

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