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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8 years ago

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

7 years ago
Reply to  pauline

Red flag the post and make a post alerting people that it is a scam.

Stacey Golightly
5 years ago
Reply to  Mer

If you make a post that it is not for rent, does that bring people to your home? Ours is for sale and it’s posted for rent…. waaaay less than we’d ever rent.

8 years ago

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
8 years ago
Reply to  Dana

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

7 years ago
Reply to  Dana

This exact thing is happening to me as we speak. Luckily I have not sent him the $1000 via Western Union, as he asked me to do. He said he is in Texas and he needs somebody to live there and take care of his home that he has worked hard on. He said he has shares in the electric company, so all utilities are included in the $500 rent. He says that it is available to be rented for 4 years. He said he had it for sale, but it has been taken off the market, so I am to ignore the FOR SALE sign in the front yard. Thank goodness I sent no money~!! I almost did.

7 years ago
Reply to  Lori

Omg I’m in Washington and a couple said they were doing missionary work for yrs and didn’t care about money as much as upkeep and care of home.We being Christians and in dire straits felt so blessed they didn’t ask for no money and the application didn’t ask for Ssn or bank info so we went and home was vacant w for sale sign out we went from email to text to speaking on phone today he asked for money to send keys and lease forms I am in awe!I gave notice to current landlord and he’s already has rented out at end of month I’m going to end up homeless w my family what can I do?nothing can help my ignorance that now jeopardize our entire lives

7 years ago
Reply to  Lori

I’m in Ri and this just happened to me. They wanted someone who take care of their house. Utilities were included, he said it was government sponsored. All the same thing you typed were in the email. They wanted a money gram $1000. I caught on real quick. I text and told him he was a scammer and the next day the phone was disconnected

7 years ago
Reply to  Dana

The same here in NY! The couple (Mr and Mrs Schwartz) left NY to go to Missouri with Service In Mission (SIM) for about 4 years. That I should take care of the property as my own because cleanliness is next to Godliness HAHA I went to the property and it is indeed for sale but owner occupied and it is NOT the name he had given me ! I alerted the owner AND the Listing Agent, they are contacting the authorities.

7 years ago

We’re dealing with something similar, we wanted to rent a house in Scottsdale, AZ for the month of March and they requested we send them a wire transfer of 1180.00, and pay the rest when we leave the home on March 31st, they gave us their cell numbers, bank account numbers, everything. We wired the money to them and they stopped all forms of communication, we filed a police report, and alerted the FBI to the situation, and to top it off, the add is still on craigslist!! So now we’re out the money, and we fill like we have no recourse to find these scumbags….

7 years ago

I think I am being scammed right now! It’s the same $500 all utilities paid apartment in Miami story. I haven’t sent any money but I want to make sure this is or isn’t a scam. This is a great deal but that is what made my red flags start flying.

7 years ago
Reply to  Steven

If it’s too good to be true then it probably is. Don’t do it!!!

4 years ago

Be aware of people hooking you with pathos’ tendrils: 1) I’m the girl-next-door person 2) I’m a church going Christian 3) my mom just died of cancer 4) my car just needed $ after taxi cab hit me 5) I teach yoga and can provide a free meditation consultation