Rental Scam: You are looking for an apartment, you find a scam - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Rental Scam: You are looking for an apartment, you find a scam

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) – Rental properties are in high demand, and online scammers are taking advantage of San Diego’s tight rental market – making it hard for people to find a place to live.

Websites like Craigslist make it easy to search for apartments, but scammers are using it to find their next victim.

KFMB employee Dan Rodger is currently looking to move and recently began responding to ads online.

In one instance, he found an apartment in Mission Valley listed for $720 a month.

“I actually drove to that area and it was legit. I could not get in the unit, but everything described [in the ad] was legit,” said Dan.

Dan wrote an email to the supposed landlord who in turn asked him to fill out a questionnaire.

Without a credit report or an in-person meeting, Dan was told the place was his. Dan was asked for a $400 deposit to be mailed in exchange for the key.

Oddly enough, Dan found himself in two more email exchanges regarding other apartments – all had similarities – including a request to mail or wire money.

Some of the emails Dan received were lengthy and oddly worded.

One of the emails read, “Hello dear.”

Dan said he knew it sounded off and cut off communication.

A smart move, according to Damon Mosler with the district attorney’s economic crimes division.

“Sadly, we have seen a lot of people be victimized by Craigslist over the years,” said Mosler.

Mosler said this type of scam is nothing new. Recently, his office prosecuted someone for duping ten people out of $4,000 a piece for an apartment that was never available in the first place.

“You have to be mindful of whatever you are sending out there and knowing who you are sending it to,” he said.

Things to be wary of:

  • Communication mostly by email
  • The landlord cannot meet you in person
  • They are quick to approve your application
  • Eager to have you send money

What is the biggest red flag?

The number itself.

In San Diego, the average rent is almost $1,900 a month.

If you are finding a lot lower than that, you may want to think twice.

“If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. IS the rent too low? Does the deal just seem weird or fishy to you for some reason,” said Christian Curry, Tenants Legal Center.

Curry is an attorney and he suggested paying attention to the signs of scam, requesting a written lease and asking specific questions.

“If the landlord owns property there, it is reasonable they would know about the schools and restaurants nearby,” he said.

If you are still unsure, have a real estate agent step-in.

Potential tenants are warned from giving out too much information like a social security number until they know for sure the place is legitimate.

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