News & Politics

People Are Actually Still Falling For Online Money-Wiring Scams

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If you wire money to some stranger who sent you an email promising a large sum of cash if you just cough up some sort of initial payment, you’re an idiot. There, we said it.

That said, people are still falling for these types of online money wiring scams, and a new one has caught the attention of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The latest online money wiring scam involves Craigslist ads for
apartment rentals. The way it works, according to Schneiderman, is a
scammer will post an ad on Craigslist for an apartment they’re renting.
The scammer will offer the apartment for a much lower rate than the
apartment would normally be rented for, and advise potential renters
that they need to pounce on the great deal and wire a deposit to the
“renter” ASAP.

The problem, however, is the person advertising the apartment has no
authority to rent it to anyone, and that deposit you wired is long gone.

Schneiderman says people in New York have been swindled out of anywhere from $200 to $6,000.

“While these offers look appealing, prospective renters must have a
critical eye when applying for rental properties on sites like
Craigslist,” Schneiderman says. “Remember the simple adage, if it looks
and sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many of the scams
originate overseas, making prosecution at the state or local levels
impossible…”

Schneiderman offered up the following anecdotes to illustrate his point:

Syracuse – A realtor discovered scammers had used his “house for sale
listing” as a “house for rent” listing on Craigslist. The realtor only
realized what happened when people contacted him using the phone number
on the for sale sign in front of his house to inquire about the rental.

Watertown – A Fort Drum service member almost fell victim to a
Craigslist rental scam and was on her way to wire the security deposit
money when she was alerted by our office that it was a scam. Had there
not been a delay as the consumer waited to transfer funds from one
account to another, the Attorney General’s office would not have been
able to get to her in time. As part of the work of the Attorney
General’s Consumer Protection Bureau, an investigator had been
corresponding with the Craigslist scammer when the scammer inadvertently
forwarded the victim’s contact information to the staffer, who was then
able to alert the would-be victim before it was too late.

Poughkeepsie – A resident lost $2,600 in a Craigslist rental scam.
She responded to an ad looking for a roommate. The scammer told the
consumer that she was temporarily working out of the country but would
be moving back shortly. The scammer convinced the renter that she needed
assistance in making arrangements to move back. She sent fake checks to
the victim and asked her to forward the money to other people who were
allegedly helping her move. The renter was promised $100 for her
troubles. In the end, the bogus checks did not clear by the bank and the
consumer ended up owing the money.

Buffalo – A family looking to relocate to New York City found a
listing for an apartment on Craigslist. They were required to put down
nearly $6,000 for first and last month’s rent and security. When they
arrived in New York City, they discovered their new home was actually an
abandoned warehouse.

The AG urges anyone who feel like they’ve a victim of this type of
scam or any other type of consumer fraud, contact his office’s consumer
helpline at (800) 771-7755.