2014_03_evrscammer.jpgIt's a scam as old as time: An amazing East Village Craigslist rental listing turned out to be a con artist's way of stealing money from unsuspecting victims. The police are looking a man suspected of duping 10 women out of nearly $22,000 in January and February

According to the NYPD, a man who uses the aliases David Horowitz and Michael Bryant pretended to be a rental agent and put ads on Craigslist.

Between Thursday, January 16, 2014, and Saturday, February 1, 2014, the suspect offered an apartment at 321 East 6 Street—an apartment he wasn't connected to in any way. He asked for—and got—$2,200 cash deposits from nine victims, for a total of $19,800. (Fun fact: The building was once part owned by Andy Warhol.)

On Thursday, January 30, 2014, he offered a "rental" at 434 East 9th Street and took a $2,100 cash deposit from a victim.

434 East 9th Street

Anyone with information in regards to these incidents is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS. The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

One tell-tale sign of a scam is when a "rental agent" demands that money be wired or a cash deposit—and can't give you keys to the apartment. From the FTC:

They tell you to wire money

This is the surest sign of a scam. There’s never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, first month’s rent, or vacation rental fee. That’s true even if they send you a contract first. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back.

They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease
It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it’s for rent, and that it is what was advertised. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the owner and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.

They say they’re out of the country
But they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or an “agent” working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys. Don’t send money to them overseas. If you can’t meet in person, see the apartment, or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking. What if the rental itself is overseas? Paying with a credit card, by PayPal, or through a reputable vacation rental website with its own payment system are your safest bets.