Beware of Bay Area Rent Fraud Scheme

Look out for this well-known but still-effective rent fraud scheme.

By Chris Roberts
|  Thursday, Dec 15, 2011  |  Updated 3:20 PM PDT
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This apartment is yours, only if you wire me some money...

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Would you like to live in a one-bedroom condo in Walnut Creek for $850 a month?

How about a two-bedroom in San Francisco -- pets OK, washer and dryer in unit, and many more perks -- for $1200 a month?

All this and more can be yours --- as long as you mail cash or a cashier's check to this address and wait for the keys...

Rock-bottom rents offered via Craigslist or other sites by shady operators who don't own the property and won't meet renters in person are snaring into a scam more and more Bay Area denizens desperate for a nice place to live on the cheap, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

These scams follow a predictable pattern: a great place for a low price that is not being offered to be seen before a deposit is solicited, the newspaper observes. The "landlords" only want you to wire them money in return for the keys.

That's a scam, and has led Craigslist to post a giant warning on its apartment rental page urging people to never, ever, wire money in return for an apartment -- that's a surefire sign of a scam.

Generally, the apartments are for rent -- just for much more money and through a real estate company or some other legitimate agency. The scammers, who claim to be overseas, will copy the listing and offer it for a cut rate -- so long as you wire them the money.

Be warned.

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