Planning to move this spring? If you are hunting for an apartment on Craigslist, watch out for rental cons. A new report from New York University explores just how common these scams are. Spoiler alert: they are everywhere.
How the Scam Works:
You are looking at Craigslist apartment listings for a new place to live. You know that scams are common on the site, but just how prevalent are they? Very, according to the NYU researchers. Craigslist fails to identify more than half of rental scam listings, and suspicious posts linger for as long as 20 hours before being taken down.
Researchers reviewed more than 2 million for-rent posts and found 29,000 fake listings in 20 major cities. Of those, there were three key types of scams. In the first, a fake post instructs a would-be tenant to purchase a credit report. The scammer gets a commission from the credit reporting site, even though there is no property for rent.
In another scheme, con artists duplicate rental listings from other sites and post on Craigslist at a lower price. Prospective renters pay a deposit via wire transfer. Another pervasive scam is "realtor service" companies. Targets are asked to pay fees to access listings of pre-foreclosure rentals or rent-to-own properties. In the majority of cases, the companies leading the scams have no connection to the properties listed.
How to Spot a Rental Scam:
For More Information
Read the full report from New York University's Tandon School of Engineering on rental scams on Craigslist. The report is the first systematic study of online rental scams.