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Beware Bogus Apartment Rental Ads

Too-good-to-be-true apartments offered on Craigslist may not exist.

It can be tough to find a place to live when you re­locate for a new job or internship. But young professionals should use caution when searching for an apartment on Craigslist. A recent study led by Damon McCoy, of NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, found roughly 29,000 fraudulent listings on the site in 20 major cities over a five-month period. Craigs­list identified and removed fewer than half of the bogus ads flagged by researchers.

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The largest category of scams involved credit checks on nonexistent properties. After an applicant replied to an ad, the scammer would request a credit report and provide a link to a credit-check service. The scammer then collected a commission for each person who paid for a report.

Another scam used ads cloned from other websites, with properties listed at a lower price. Scammers then asked applicants who responded to wire a deposit.

A landlord may ask you to provide a credit report. Before you consent, verify the landlord’s identity by calling or e-mailing with questions about the property and the local area, advises Katie Johnson, general counsel of the National Association of Realtors. Never make a deposit on an apartment you’ve never seen, and don’t send financial information via e-mail.

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