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San Francisco Rental Scams and How to Spot Them

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Apartments in the city by the bay have seen some hefty rent increases in recent months, adding to the probability that your impossibly too-good-to-be-true Craigslist find just might be a scam.


Beware of scams. (Photo by Bruno J. Navarro)

While I’ve previously written about how to spot and avoid apartment rental scams while searching for a place to live in New York, many of the tricks that criminals attempt are the same regardless of which coast you call home.

Two of the most common tip-offs include a ridiculously low price — in a market where the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $3,460 — as well as an overly elaborate story of why they’re not meeting you in person and a desire to deal in cash only.

A friend recently forwarded one in which the supposed owner wrote the following:

Thanks for your interest and inquiries about my house. Yes the house is still available for rent and we are looking for a responsible person/family to occupy and maintain the house now that we are not around. My wife and i just moved to East Africa,(Kenya ) for a program called Health Resources and Services Administration( HRSA), the program is taking place in three major countries in Europe, UK, USA . We will be there for 2 to 3 years or more that is why I have made up my mind to put up my house for rent to whom ever that will take good care of it.

Sometimes the con artist manufactures a story that preys on would-be victims’ compassion, setting up a situation that will require waiting for keys to be shipped that will never arrive.

I’m happy to inform you that the place is still available for rent. I’ve Congenital deafness and I work with a Resource Center on Deafness which provides programs and services to support deaf and hard of hearing students, their parents, and their school districts.. I was presently transferred to Ohio.. I have no choice than to relocate and this is the reason why I want to rent out the units to someone who is going to take care of the place as if they own it. … I want you to make sure the present address is not mistaken because that’s where the keys and documents will be ship to. The contents of the shipment you will be expecting are …


Yeah, right.

Such a scam is common and often involves wiring money via Western Union or MoneyGram, either to a foreign address or within the United States. Scammers promise they will send you the keys, making it sound like they are taking a big risk in trusting that you won’t rip them off.

Scammers are also expanding beyond San Francisco to the Greater Bay Area. The second example above was for a listing in San Carlos.

By the way, even a temporary rental via services such as Airbnb is no sure bet that you won’t get scammed, either. Please use your best judgment and stay away from anything that doesn’t seem legitimate.

I loved living in San Francisco, although I was there when rents were much cheaper, and I would hate for anyone to suffer a financial loss in such a beautiful place.

For more information, read my previous posts on the topic, “How to Avoid Craigslist Apartment Rental Scams” and “How to Spot & Avoid Apartment Scams.”


Written by Bruno

2015.11.18 at 16:06

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