I searched for an apartment to rent in NYC, in the first few days of April 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. I read that the rental market is down, and was motivated to find a deal on an apartment.
Craigslist has more scams listings than actual listings. Especially if you try to hunt for a good deal. I read through 200+ listings, and only about 30 were worth responding to. I skipped the ones that were billboard advertising images. They are obvious; you know them when you see them.
Of those 30 I responded to, about 3/4 were scams. I asked just one question in my response to the ad: “When can I see the apartment in person?” Because that is one thing the average scammer from a foreign country can't do, is to show you an actual apartment. Their response will be everything but an answer to that question.
Of the remaining 1/4 listings that I messaged, I only got one real response. The rest didn't respond. Is the housing market frozen during the coronavirus pandemic?
Craigslist has a forum where you can ask questions. So I asked: “Practically every rental ad that shows an obfuscated email in the body of the ad turns out to be bait for a scam. For example: link-to-example-ad. Should I just flag every rental ad with this feature?
I got the following response:
That's a very well known scammer trick so most < Imelda_Snarkos > 2020-04-14 20:33
People don't bother replying to those ads, they just ignore them. Another trick is to obfuscate the phone number: 8 six 7 5 three oh 9 (for instance).
You are welcome to flag such ads but it would probably be as useful as trying to shoot at rain.
Look for ads with a phone number listed in the “Reply” part of the ad, or use the anonymized email relay.
I've resumed looking for an apartment. Another scammer trick is to ask for your email and/or number in the ad. There is a reason that Craigslist uses a proxy for communications. Many times, in response to your inquiry, they will ask for your email address to “send more information”, or “email the owner at such-and-such email address”. Also scam. They want to send you a security code. Definitely scam. They should be doing nothing else than planning with you to see the apartment. In person.
You can find apartments in NYC, that aren't basements, for $1450 and up. In that price range, there are few scam listings.