How to Avoid Craigslist Apartment Rental Scams
NEW YORK — In the eternal quest to find the best apartment deal in New York, some would-be renters are falling for brazen scams.
Never mind the unscrupulous licensed types who might attempt bait-and-switch tactics to make a quick buck. One increasingly common flim-flam involves con artists posting Craigslist ads for vacant apartments they neither own, nor have the authority to rent.
Real estate professionals “across the region say they’re seeing more people fall for it, partly because the scammers are no longer just luring victims from afar; they’re now setting up appointments with unsuspecting renters and showing them the homes before disappearing with their money,” according to a LoHud.com story.
In a New York Daily News article, one criminal in Queens swindled “a dozen would-be renters by placing a phony ad on Craigslist for an apartment in Sunnyside that didn’t belong to him.”
While I’ve previously shared a few tips on how to spot and avoid apartment scams, which are worth a look, here are a couple more that helpful readers have passed along:
- Ask for a business card. Any reputable real estate agent will have a real business card. If you have time, check out the website and see if the agent is listed on it, or call the main number. Of course, sometimes it’s possible that we’re out of cards. If that’s the case, you can ask for the next item.
- Ask to see the agent’s pocket card. By law, every agent in New York is supposed to carry a state-issued ID card while working. It looks much like a driver’s license, and it lists the agent’s name and company. Many doorman buildings require both a business card and a pocket card before an agent is allowed to show an apartment. Not having a card could be a tip-off that something is askew.
- Meet the agent at his or her office. At least the first time, it might be a good idea to see where an agent works. This works not only to avoid rip-off artists but also to get a sense of the company’s professionalism (and whether you can file a formal complaint if something does go terribly awry).
- Don’t deal in cash. Without a record of payment or a way to track your hard-earned money once it leaves your hands, it might be difficult to track down a swindler after the fact. Insist on using a credit card or cashier’s check for the deposit and application fee. If the person trying to rent you an apartment balks, take a walk.
- Use common sense. If an apartment sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Truth is, there are very few four-bedroom apartments under $400 or even 90-square-foot studios for $700 around.
If you have any questions about whether something seems fishy, please ask me or someone knowledgeable. I’m always happy to help. And if you have any suggestions of your own or experiences to share, please feel free to share in the comments below.