Renter Scams: A real victim’s account, in her own words

Bedroom picture from the fake ad
Picture from the fake ad

Renter: Cecily from North Carolina

Money Lost: $2,600
The scam: 2 BR, Lower East Side

Tell us about yourself.
“I’m from Raleigh, North Carolina, going to school in Tennessee and interning at a fashion company in NYC.”

Why did you decide to live in NYC?
“I always knew I wanted to live here. There’s always something to do.”

What did you expect while looking for your apartment?

Actual Image from Craigslist Ad
Actual Image from Craigslist Ad

“We had heard horror stories before, so we were trying not to get scammed.” “We tried really hard to be weary and watchful of people… and going into it, we were trying to be very cautious.” “A lot of the pictures we ran across we could tell had been lifted from other real estate websites, but [the photos for this apartment] seemed like they had been taken on someone’s digital camera and looked unique.” “We thought we wouldn’t be able to get a 2br in our price range.  But this one actually was a two bedroom. It was in the Lower East Side on Delancey.” “The monthly rent was $1,200, which we were worried was low for a 2 bedroom, but we were so excited about finding a place that we just ignored it and figured since it’s not exactly a posh neighborhood, that’s what people were paying. We’ve come to find out now… that people are paying way more for apartments in that area.”  “We never had a chance to see the apartment. We both were still in school and felt bad asking our friends in the city to take time out of their schedules… Maybe we should have done that, but at the time… [we thought] well this seems legitimate. The guy has talked with us on the phone, has good grammar and doesn’t seem like a scammer.” “He didn’t want PayPal or Western Union, which always seems kind of sketchy.   He wanted a direct deposit into his bank account and we figured if he was a scammer, we could go to the bank.”

When did you realize you’d been scammed?
“My roommate is packing and decides to call him [to arrange] the specifics of getting the keys… the date and the time.  She can’t get a hold of him. She emails him a bunch of times. Calls him a bunch of times.  Texts him and he doesn’t answer.  So she freaks out and figures the worst has happened.   And then a couple days later, he ends up emailing her and telling her that his email has been hacked and he’s so sorry, but if she can just continue payments.  But by then we had figured out that clearly he was a scammer, and was trying to fool us, not once, but twice.”

Actual Image used on Craigslist Ad
Actual Image used on Craigslist Ad


What advice do you have for other renters?
“Not Craigslist.   There’s not accountability there.  And there’s no way you can penalize Craigslist because they don’t hold themselves responsible for you getting scammed because it’s such an easily accessible marketplace to people and they don’t mean for it to be anything else.  So I guess when you’re trying to look for something as important as place to live, you’re going to have to go the extra mile, spend a little extra money, but it will be worth it in the end.  You can’t cut corners.”