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The original item was published from 2/26/2020 12:05:36 PM to 3/15/2020 12:00:04 AM.

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City Manager Report

Posted on: February 26, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Rental Scam Asks for Electronic Transfer of Funds

Person holding a cell phone.

Those hunting for an apartment or rental house are being warned of deceitful advertisements that can scam victims out of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

On Feb. 25, 2020, the Las Cruces police department received two separate reports from victims who fell prey to this scam. Both victims indicated the advertisements were on Craigslist and the only communication they had with the perpetrator was through email. One of the victims lost $1,650 while the second lost $2,150.

The perpetrator of the scam appears to have created online advertisements for rental properties using actual photos of local homes and apartments. The photos and rental property descriptions were likely obtained from legitimate, local real estate listings. The only way to contact the ad creator was through a Gmail email address.

The prospective tenants contacted the perpetrator via email. After exchanging several emails, the perpetrator encouraged the prospective tenants to electronically transfer the deposit and first-month’s rent. Only after funds were electronically transferred did the victims learn the transactions were phony. The victims tried contacting the perpetrator but, only having an email address, were unsuccessful.

Police determined the perpetrator used actual photos and descriptions of rentals that were likely copied from legitimate, local real estate advertisements. Perpetrators of such scams commonly ask to be paid electronically because those transactions are difficult, if not impossible, to track.

Las Cruces police strongly encourage prospective renters to use caution, and exercise due diligence, prior to entering into any financial agreement to rent property. Other tips include:

  • Avoid engaging in a deal, or money transfer, when the only means of communication is conducted over the Internet, social media or by e-mail.
  • If possible, conduct a walk-through of the rental property and meet the landlord or real estate agent in person prior to making a deposit.
  • Review rental agreements thoroughly prior to signing a contract or exchanging funds.
  • Beware if the property owner claims to be traveling, or is out of the country, and unable to meet in-person. That’s likely an indication the deal is a scam.
  • Consider using the services of a licensed real estate agent who has a local office.

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