If you’re looking for a rental apartment, it’s very tempting to start with Craigslist, however beware of rental scams on Craigslist. There are definitely deals to be had, especially since individual owners list on the site.
However scammers like Craigslist just as much, as it provides so many opportunities to take advantage of people's trusting nature.
They use yahoo, ymail, rocketmail, fastermail, live, hotmail and gmail, and they also post ads under anonymous craigslist addresses. They frequently change their aliases.
They use photos stolen from other property advertisements or from home furnishing catalogues or hotel websites.
They use fake names, often stolen from Facebook profiles or networking sites. Often they assume the identities of previous victims.
Avoiding rental scams begins with understanding how they work. Once you know what to look for, your chances of identifying one before you hand over your money increase hugely.
The most common scam is where a scammer rents a property so they can show to other people. They provide false information to the landlord and then rent it to as many people as they can before they disappear with the money.
They'll collect first and last month's rent, security deposits and any fees or charges they can squeeze out of their victims, and then disappear. It has been know for a property to be rented to dozens of victims before the scammer disappeared with all their money.
Another approach is taken by scammers overseas who have never seen the property. They will copy a photo and listing information from another property ad and use it themselves. The story will be along the lines that they are presently out of the country on holiday, business, military service etc so can't show you the property themselves. You will be asked to wire them the first and last month's rent, security deposits, and assorted fees first. The rental price will be attractive enough for people to think they are getting a bargain.
Another option is for the scammer to ask the victims to send small sums to receive copies of the house keys, so the victims can walk through the premises themselves.
Alternatively, the scammer forwards a rental application, or asks for information typically given on a rental application, such as driver's license number, bank account information, Social Security Number, etc so the scammer can carry out identity theft.