7 On Your Side

Craigslist apartment scams

Monday, August 03, 2009

There is a new scam circulating Craigslist, and it targets people looking for apartments. So how can you avoid getting ripped off?

Law enforcement officials say it's the new hot scam. It starts with a Craigslist apartment ad. And if you're a target, you could see thousands of dollars disappear in a blink.

"I'm very upset," scam victim Victor Validum said. "I'm alone. I'm scared. I'm like, there's nothing left to do, you know?"

Validum and Kenya Tucker got scammed out of their last $2,000. Now, the couple is homeless and broke.

Last month, the couple was kicked out of their home when it was foreclosed. They thought they found a new rental from a posting on Craigslist.

"They sent us pictures, and we loved the pictures," Tucker said. "The apartment, it was supposed to be for $650 a month."

The owner said he was out of the country, but would fly in to deliver the keys to the apartment, provided he was wired nearly $2,000.

So Victor and Kenya wired their savings.

"He didn't give us the keys," Validum said. "He didn't fly out. There was no apartment."

Amy Kim fell for the very same scam.

Amy had to find another apartment when the one she thought she rented didn't materialize. But she'll likely never again see the money she wired to the scammer.

"I'm sure when he picked up my funds, he picked up five other people's funds," she said. "I wouldn't be surprised."

"We're definitely seeing this type of scam generate more complaints in the recent months," U.S. postal inspector Tom Boyle said.

Postal officials say avoiding the scam is simple - never wire funds to someone you don't know.

"It's gone," he said. "And there's very little we can do as law enforcement because, again, these suspects are in Africa and other foreign countries.

All three victims filed police reports and complained to the companies they used to wire funds. But the prospects for getting their money back are not good. Again, when someone who you don't know demands you wire funds, that should be a red flag to a scam. And authorities want to hear about it, whether you lose money or not.

Visit Craigslist.org/about/scams for more information on Craigslist scams.

To report fraud to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service: visit https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/forms/MailFraudComplaint.aspx

To report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission, visit http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/contact.shtm#publications

For tips on how to NOT to get scammed online, visit https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/investigations/MailFraud/fraudschemes/FraudSchemes.aspx

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