Rental scams increase nationwide

October 13, 2010 01:00PM

Stephen Kotler of Prudential Douglas Elliman

As the rental market tightens, the likelihood of apartment hunters being scammed is increasing, brokers and crime experts said. The most common fraud involves scammers posting legitimate rental offers on listing services for lower rents, agents told the Wall Street Journal. Victims send in deposits and find out later that the apartment’s actual owner was not involved. Close to 5,500 rental-scam complaints were received nationwide by the start of October, according to the National White Collar Crime Center. Though statistics for New York alone aren’t available, anecdotal evidence suggests that the trend is prevalent in Manhattan as well. Stephen Kotler, executive vice president and director of rentals at Prudential Douglas Elliman, said his firm heard about three cases in the last two months where suspicious would-be renters contacted the firm and established that listings had been copied by bogus operators. “We have definitely seen an increase in this type of fraud recently,” Kotler said. “With the Internet it is very easy for people to scrape information from any website and present it as their own.” [WSJ]