My friend Amanda is looking for a new apartment, and last week she responded to an appealing ad on Craigslist. There was no apartment, though…just a credit report scam that’s showing up in more and more cities.
Here’s how the scam works. An ad goes up for a house or an apartment at an appealing rent. (See an example.) The ads don’t change much from city to city, and are vague about where the place is located. The person who placed the ad e-mails prospective renters back with a rental application, a promise to walk them through the property soon, and a request for a copy of your credit report.
The demand for a credit report is the only part of this scam that’s real. It’s an affiliate link to one of the “free” credit report services. You know, like FreeCreditReport.com, only shadier and without the annoying TV commercials. The URL to the “free” credit report contains the scammer’s affiliate code, and they receive money for every new customer referred to the credit report site.
Since the apartments often have suspiciously low rents for the area, the
landlord scammer can just pretend that someone else was approved before you. Victims of the scam continue in their apartment hunts, never the wiser until strange charges for credit monitoring services show up on their credit card bill.
Here’s an example of one of the e-mails. When my friend e-mailed the person offering the apartment asking where the place was located, she received this reply from George:
We try to keep our costs and our tenants costs to a minimum so we can rent our units fast and keep them rented. Pets are accepted if you have any.
Hopefully I can walk you through the property either tomorrow or within the next few days.
Once you have these completed the steps below, send me an email. This really is a very nice rental especially for the price. Wont last long at this price.
Here is our Rental Application: Here
Print it out and bring it with you when we look at the property.
You’ll need a copy of your credit report. Your report is free with a free trial. This will save me from charging you any fees for checking your credit history. Get it at http://www.rentalinvestors.net/freecreditreport.html
“Wont last long at this price,” indeed.
She replied to him, again asking where the apartment was located—which, after all, was the only thing she asked in her initial e-mail. He never responded.
We reported on a very similar employment ad scam back in February. Apparently, people become suspicious when a prospective employer asks for a credit check before the interview, but a credit check as part of a rental application is much more plausible.
Many Consumerist readers have spotted this scam, and some have gone through with the credit checks. If you’re one of them, carefully watch your credit card statements, dispute any charges you never asked for, and be sure to get a real free credit report from Annualcreditreport.com every year.
Here’s a partial list of sham real estate companies, and the credit report companies they’re sending business to. If you’ve run into similar ads, send us an e-mail with the fake company’s information, and we’ll add it to the list.
Equal Opportunity Rentals – equalopportunityrentals.com
Rental Investors – rentalinvestors.net
Katie’s Rentals – katiesrentals.com
Metro Apartments – metroapartments.org
Anna’s Rental Properties annasrentalproperties.com
Reed Apartments – reedapartments.org – email@example.com
ZT Apartments – firstname.lastname@example.org
http://www.creditgradegroup.com – email@example.com
Derek Couture – firstname.lastname@example.org
Exquisite Rentals – exquisiterentals.com – ExquisiteRentals@mail.com
Kimberly McReynolds – email@example.com
Credit check services;
http://www.creditreportamerica.com (See their BBB report and previous Consumerist appearance.)
“Help, I Fell For The Apartment Rental Credit Check Scam!”
Consumer 101: Get Your Free Credit Report From “Annual Credit Report.com”
Beware Of Apartment Scammers
Don’t Fall For The Job Hunting Credit Report Scam