Scams

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.

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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