This scam has a few variants but the general steps are simple;

  1. The fraudster advertises an apartment for rent in a desirable area for lower than the market rate
  2. The victim responds
  3. the fraudster is unfortunately out of the country/away so asks for the victim to send a deposit to secure the apartment.
  4. The victim sends the money
  5. The fraudster is never heard of again.

The advertisement could be placed in a print newspaper, an online site, or on a fake site built for the purpose.  Sometimes a legitimate bank or insurer is mentioned in the advertisement or subsequent emails to reassure the victim.

In more sophisticated versions the fraudster uses a real apartment for rent and copies the information from legitimate advertisements just changing the contact information. In some cases the scam has gone as far as letting the victim move in – and be kicked out or arrested for trespassing.

It’s become a common scam yet still seems to trap people regularly. Many sites have created lists of warning signs, but one rental company, apparently tired of the scams has created a nifty online tool for assessing rental ads, answer a series of ten questions and see a probability that the ad is a scam. They show you some simple online tricks you can use to assess the ad, and there’s also an email look up tool.

But the summary is; if it sounds to good to be true – it probably is.

Images; rental

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