If something seems too good to be true, it unfortunately usually is. On the Utica Craigslist page is a listing for a beautiful home in South Utica for rent at an unbelievable price. That is because it is a clear cut scam. These people use clever tricks to try and steal people's hard earned money and this particular scam is real and still going on. It's important to educate yourself on the warning signs.

In March of 2012 Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office issued a press release consisting of 4 warning signs of tactics used by these phonies. Due to a recent inquiry emails were sent to me that helped identify this "home owner" as a criminal. In the press release the following situations should raise a red flag.

1. Scammers will use realtors’ multiple listing services to find properties that are legitimately for rent or sale. They take the information, change the contact information and offer a much lower price than the original listing.

Partial Contents of Email Received Back: "we made the house inexpensive just because we believed even the poor and rich deserve a home to live..  So i hope you will promise us that you will take very good care of the house." They had the rent for this house on the market for over $100,000 at $620 per month.

2. Oftentimes, scammers will offer a telephone number without a functioning voicemail setup, causing the potential renter to contact them via email.

Partial Contents of Email: "Call him Any-Time if his not reachable leave him voice message he will get back to you (361) 434-0654." The number was called and the scammer actually answered, but it was through a Google voice account.

3. Scammers' emails are typically poorly written and may indicate the "owner" is on a humanitarian mission in another country.

Partial Contents of Email: "Yes Our house is still available for rent quite and safe, we are looking for a responsible person/family to occupy and maintain the house now that we are not around. My wife  and I just traveled to Lagos Nigeria for a program called SERVING IN MISSION (SIM)" This wasn't the worst grammar, but follow-up emails contained several errors.

4. Emails typically ask for a deposit to be wired in exchange for a key to the house.

Partial Contents of Email: This was the nail in the coffin on my dreams of a nice new rental house. The "owner" asked me to wire him a security deposit of $600 in exchange for keys and documents for the home. The email stated, "You are going to send the payment to me and below is my information to send the payment, through Money Gram Money Transfer nearest to you. Just go to any walmart or grocery near you with this information and send the payment."

Make sure before you send any money or give away any personal information that you know who the landlord is, that you see the apartment or house first, and be sure to arrange a face to face meeting with the potential landlord first. When you are dealing with a website like Craigslist or other online resources you have to be extra careful.

The house that the scam is using is 125 Melrose Ave. South in Utica. The actual sale of this home is being handled by Realty USA and calls to the agent handling the listing have not yet been returned.

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