The Apartment Rental Credit Check Scam Is Alive And Well

Image courtesy of DCvision2006

Six years ago, we alerted the world to the apartment rental credit check scam. That’s a scheme where apartments or houses that may or may not exist are advertised on Craigslist or other classified ad sites to sell not-so-free credit checks to prospective renters. Unfortunately, in spite of our campaign and warnings right on Craigslist ads, these schemes are alive and well.

Reader Shelby writes that she wasn’t thinking critically: “I was desperate for a house, and didn’t think it through,” she writes. She filled out the credit check to pre-screen, as instructed. Yet the landlord didn’t write back even though she responded right away. The ad disappeared, she says, and an almost identical one appeared for a different apartment.

The good news, if there is any here, is that the scammers aren’t out to steal your personal information. Instead, they’re simply generating leads for the credit report services: each prospective renter for the fake apartment who orders a credit report earns them a commission. That’s why it doesn’t matter that the apartment doesn’t exist.

Craigslist tries to keep people away from these schemes, but they can’t do everything.


Here are some warning signs that you can see from the listing itself, even before you e-mail:

  • Photos stolen from another listing: scammers in my region like to steal their fake listing photos from the real estate multi-listing service, or MLS: these photos are very low-resolution or watermarked, making them very easy to spot.
  • Listings that are unusual for your area: if rentals of “condos” or “cottages” are unusual in the local market, that can be a flag.
  • If the listing gives neighborhood or area names that don’t actually exist in your city, like “lakefront” if you don’t have a lake or “east side” if people in your area simply don’t say that, it may be an indication that the people putting up listings are faraway scammers.
  • No information about the location at all–this isn’t always a sign of a scam, but it can be one sign among many others.

Here’s the e-mail that Shelby received. Keep it in mind when hunting for a new home: most of these scams follow similar scripts:

Good to talk to you. Here’s some good news: the unit’s still available! We thought we had the unit rented to someone that we gave a personal walk-through to, but now it seems that they are no longer needing to move, so we need to keep searching. You were the 2nd one to contact me.

I am sure you want the exact address of the place, but my husband doesn’t want me to advertise the address as a standard precaution. Last time we did that without being diligent, it was broken into and ripped up. We don’t want that to happen again! That is why we require you to confirm you recieved your most current credit report before we setup a tour.You will be responsible for cable, internet, and phone, if you decide to have these services. For the FIRST time, we are allowing pets at this property. The rental term is one year, but can be switched into a half year term if preferred. We require one month notice before moving out, as a courtesy.

If you want us to schedule you for a tour, then please visit the link below and get your report. We use this site since it’s it gives you 3 scores. All you need to do is fill out the form and you get your report We are not concerned with any negative scores, it’s more of a formality to ensure you have rental history. Simply get your report by CLICKING HERE

Keep in mind that you only have to bring your report to the tour. We’ll also waive your security deposit if we see that your rating is above 620+.

Once you let me know that you have your report ready, then I can personally schedule a showing of the place.

See you soon,

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