SF Renters: Beware the Fake Landlord Scam

Would-be tenants duped on Craigslist

Find an apartment on Craigslist, sign a lease and hand over a deposit. Sounds pretty routine, right?

But for several renters in San Francisco, that routine had a bad ending. Now they're left out on the curb after a woman posing as a property owner and potential landlord allegedly scammed them out of thousands of dollars.

Police say Rachel Smith falsely posted an apartment she doesn't own on Craigslist and rented it to several people, collecting more than $5,000 in deposit checks from several people who thought they were moving in. Smith would tell her victims her mother was ill so she couldn't move out yet and they would wait, according to police.

A woman who handed over her deposit was talking about the move at work and discovered a co-worker was also planning to move into the place. The red flag went up and the women called cops.

Officers arrested Smith and as word of the scam spreads, investigators say more victims are coming forward. One victim isn't sure if he'll get his money back and is now desperately searching for a two-bedroom apartment that allows dogs.

Smith is facing several fraud charges which could mean a long prison term if she's convicted.

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