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Buyer Beware: The Apartment Hunting Scam You May Not Know About

Scammers have found yet another way to take your money! If you are in the market for a new residence and have turned to Craigslist to find a reasonably priced apartment, beware: If it sounds too good to be true, it may be a scam.

Internet thieves have taken to vacation rental sites to swipe photos and descriptions of properties they will then post on Craigslist and flood unsuspecting property owners with unwelcome visitors and calls about a property that is not for lease. That happened to one Colorado woman.

Sandi, was the victim of a scammer who took photos and descriptions of her vacation rental properties on vacation rental website, VRBO, and listed them on Craigslist as long-term, apartment rentals, which they were not.

“I’ve never had anyone actually come to my properties [in the past], but today I’ve had two people come to two different properties looking through the windows, thinking these are furnished properties for rent [as apartments].”

One man saw the property on Craigslist and was told he could have an in-person viewing, the way anyone would who was apartment shopping.

According to Sandi, “He called and he said he was running into scams and he wanted to make sure this was a legitimate rental.” Sandi had to explain to him that they had not been in correspondence.

“The poor guy was over at another property that’s a VRBO, trying to look at that one, and I told him, ‘That’s a VRBO, that’s not a full-time rental.’ He’s going all over town looking for a place to live.”

Renters are drawn to the fake ads because the properties are appealing and the prices are low. People think they are getting a deal and do not want to pass it up.

Says Sandi, “They’re looking in the windows, trying to open the doors and they’re scaring the renters half to death because they think someone is trying to break into the property. I’m afraid that someone’s going to get hurt. I’m afraid for the innocent people that are going around looking at these places.”

Craigslist advises consumers to deal locally and face to face to avoid such scams. If you are asked to use alternative forms of payment like a wire transfer, gift cards, or anything of the like, that should be a warning sign. Never lease a property you haven’t seen.

If you are the victim of a scam, report it to your Attorney General’s Office. You can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.

Do you have additional information about scam? Have you seen this scam in action? Tell us in the comments below. You can also contact us for more information! Feel free to shoot us an email to Outreach@ConsiderTheConsumer.com. You can also find us on TwitterFacebook, InstagramLinkedIn, or even connect with us directly on our website!

About the Author: Aisha K. Staggers is a writer, lecturer, political analyst and literary agent. She appears weekly for “Staggers’ State of Things” on the Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been published by Paper Magazine, AfroPunk, The Spool, GREY Journal, MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, New York Review of Books and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. Find her on Twitter @AishaStaggers. For more of her work, check out her page here!

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