COVID-19 pandemic leads to increase in rental scams

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With the COVID-19 pandemic creating uncertainty as moratoriums on evictions end, officials are warning tenants of the rise in rental scams targeting New Yorkers desperate for affordable housing.Reports say that scammers are covering up classified online websites like Craigslist featuring apartments and rooms with incredible rents in the hope that people’s desperation outweighs their judgment. Some tenants have had thousands scammed in some cases.

With the advent of online payment apps like Cash App, PayPal and Zelle, crooks can get money even faster without even seeing their victim. By the time the victim realizes that she has been scammed, it is too late.

Scammers often copy the photo and description from the ad and change the contact information to their own. Then they publish the list online offering low rent to attract more people. Many succeeded in their ruse and got away with their victim’s rent deposit and the first month’s rent.

According to Onerent, one of the nation’s largest small-home rental managers, some 5.2 million people in the country are victims of bogus rental listings. Company co-founder Chuck Hattemer said crooks were using the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent victims from seeing properties that in most cases don’t even exist.

Onerent recently launched the Scamlord.ai website for apartment hunters to find out if an online ad is real or fake.

“Online scams are increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “Some scammers claim to be an owner who can’t make a presentation due to social distancing. They will often ask you to wire money in advance. In this time of a global pandemic, being fooled with your money and being left homeless is a cruel experience. For some victims, this could end in financial ruin. ”

That hard-wired money could add up to $ 6,000 in some cases, according to state figures. Bogus landlords will often ask for money to cover deposits, rent, and other costs so that a tenant can move in that could total in the thousands. Some crooks get away with tens of thousands of dollars by swindling numerous victims from a single apartment listing.

According to the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs, the rental listing scam is one of the top ten daily scams that occur in the city.

So what’s the best way to avoid being scammed? The NYPD has a simple warning for apartment hunters: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Firstly, never pay before you visit an apartment, do not use wire transfer services or money apps as a method of payment, do not complete an application giving personal information before viewing a property and search for the property. listing agent.

The NYPD is urging anyone who thinks they have been the victim of a rental scam to contact the police. Renters should also report scams to the city’s consumer department by going to nyc.gov/consumers.



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