How Does the Cheap Apartment Scam Work on Craigslist?
By Marissa Meyer
Craigslist is a useful resource for potential renters looking for the perfect apartment at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, con artists have tapped into the vulnerability of renters on the hunt for affordable housing. Rental scams are often carried out on Craigslist since it is a highly viewed, free service. Before you get excited about a listing that seems too good to be true, make sure you're familiar with the cheap apartment scam so you can watch for red flags.
Most scammers hope to receive as many responses as possible before victims realize they've been had. For this reason, con artists posing as landlords often post ads on Craigslist featuring desirable rentals in large cities with competitive markets. Pictures and descriptions will make the property seem exceptional compared to other options in the same price range. Sometimes the scammer may offer an explanation for the incredible deal, such as a recent divorce or a sudden job transfer. Although the culprit will usually be able to produce pictures, he will typically refuse requests for showings, requiring that renters commit sight-unseen to secure the reduced price.
The con artist posing as a landlord will typically ask respondents to send money to cover a security deposit and first month's rent. Although it is common for landlords to request funds for these purposes, a scammer may set off red flags when he asks that the funds be wired, or requests bank account numbers and other personal information.
Con artists posing as landlords rarely actually own the property being advertised on Craigslist. Victims will find out later that the rental does not exist, or that its legitimate owner has no knowledge of the posting. Unfortunately, many eager renters often send deposits and/or sensitive information per their correspondence with the scammer on Craigslist. Financial losses are difficult or impossible to recover because con artists request that funds be wired and use false names to keep from being located. In some cases, criminals have made off with more than $60,000 by collecting funds from multiple respondents.
Marissa Meyer has been writing professionally since 2004, with work published on websites such as Decoded Science and MomSquawk. She has also worked in the travel, beauty, home design and childcare fields. Meyer received dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in communication and political science from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.