STATEN ISLAND, NY – It’s the kind of rental deal anyone would jump into – an entire house for $ 1,000 or $ 1,500 per month including all utilities listed on a real estate website.
And good news: the place is yours to ask, invisible to the eye.
Except that the owner is abroad. And he can’t show you around.
But don’t worry, he’ll mail you the keys, provided you transfer the rent and the first month’s deposit to him.
The house may be real, and it may in fact be for rent – but the listing is a fake, posted by a scammer seeking to steal money and personal information.
The scam has popped up on Staten Island in recent years, and at the end of last week, the NYPD ‘s 123rd Precinct sent out a warning on Twitter reminding people that if a rental agreement sounds too good to be true, there’s a good chance you got had.
In an incident last month, a bogus real estate agent by the name of “goodfamilyhome” hijacked a legitimate rental listing from Trulia.com for a Staten Island home.
That name, “goodfamilyhome”, has appeared on similar Trulia lists across the country in the past few days.
Google Cached Web Documents Show Hacked Lists in Edison, NEW JERSEY, and San Jose, Calif., although those listings have since been restored to show the legitimate real estate agent.
In each case, the ad “goodfamilyhome” offers the same property at a considerably reduced rent. The Edison house, for example, is actually listed at $ 1,700 per month, but the backdoor ad drops the rent to $ 1,000, offers amenities like a refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, washer and more. a dryer.
Calls to the accompanying phone number “goodfamilyhome” led to a Google Voice mailbox, and messages left by a reporter were not returned Thursday.
In July 2013, a woman from the Bronx found an ad for a three bedroom, three bathroom home for rent in Sunnyside on Trulia.com for just $ 1,200 per month. She soon realized that someone was trying to scam her when the alleged owner requested money through Western Union.
It turned out that a scammer found a legitimate ad to sell the house, not rent it out, then hijacked the ad and reused it.
A law enforcement source familiar with how the scam works gave the following advice to potential tenants: “If you are told to wire money, under any circumstances, always think twice. law enforcement, ask if it’s real. “
Michael Reilly, retired police lieutenant and chairman of the Staten Island Community Education Committee, issued a warning about the scam on his popular Facebook.com page, and offered a few snippets of emails sent by a con artist:
“I’m sorry, I don’t have anyone to show you the inside, you can only drive next to our house and we can also make arrangements on how you will get the keys,” one reads. E-mail.
“We have decided to let you live in our house. As we have found your request very wonderful, satisfactory and acceptable to my family. … you will need to make the payment of the security deposit so that we can dispatch the keys and documents to the address you gave us, “one reads in another.
In an SMS exchange, the scammer suggests that a potential tenant send a security deposit through MoneyGram to their secretary in Illinois.
TIPS FOR AVOIDING “Rental Ad Scams”
The Federal Trade Commission has a web page dedicated to so-called “Rental Listing Scams.”
“It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is for rent, and that is what was advertised. In addition to arranging a meeting, research the owner and the ad. If you find the same ad under a different name, that’s a clue that it may be a scam, “the site reads.
Trulia also has a list of tips on how to avoid rental scams on its website, advising people, “The simplest sign of a rental scam is when someone asks you to fire. money via Western Union or Moneygram. Con artists usually ask for a down payment or first month’s rent before they even see the property. Do not send money for any reason.