Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - A rise in the number of complaints related to Craigslist rental scams has prompted the State Attorney General’s Office to issue a consumer alert urging New Yorkers to protect themselves.
According to the AG, victims have lost anywhere between $200 and $6,000 to scammers in such cyber-thefts.
The scammers use a variety of tactics to separate their targets from their money:
In some instances, they will use realtors’ multiple listing services to find properties that are legitimately for rent or sale. They then change the contact information and offer a much lower price than the original listing. In many cases, the scammers will offer a telephone number without a voicemail set-up, forcing the potential renter or buyer to contact them via email.
Many of the scammers’ emails can be poorly written and they will claim they are on a humanitarian mission in another country.
Their email messages may ask for a deposit to be wired in exchange for a key to the house.
The AG advises:
- Make sure you know who actually owns the advertised property (records can be checked at local county courthouses and some municipalities allow you to check tax records online).
- Never wire any money at the request of a potential landlord.
- Research the name or company you're dealing with to see if they have any complaints against them.
- Never send a scan of your passport or other ID. These thieves will use your identity to scam others.
- Use reverse directory look up if the person has given you their telephone number. It's important to double check that they are who they say they are.
- Due to the rise in foreclosures, ask the landlord if they're current on their mortgage payments, and then get their answer in writing.
- Consider using another method for finding a rental (a real estate agent or a rental agency).
- Check the Better Business Bureau.
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Anyone who thinks they may have been a victim in a scam should call the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at (800) 771-7755.