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 Post subject: Chicago Apartment Rental Scam committed by Jason Booth
PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:12 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:02 pm
Posts: 2
Apartment scams are on the increase. Here is a news article about a recent one in Chicago's south loop by Jason Booth to 7 victims who responded to rental ads on Craigslist. http://chicagojournal.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=60&ArticleID=4221&TM=35792.06


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 Post subject: Re: Chicago Apartment Rental Scam committed by Jason Booth
PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 7:16 pm 
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Joined: Sat Apr 12, 2008 5:40 pm
Posts: 2
Does anyone know if this is a common type of scam in Chicago? I think my husband and I just narrowly avoided a very similar situation this afternoon... (but, in the back of my mind, I'm hoping that this deal is legit because I love the apartment! :cry: )

Here's the story (and I apologize that it's so long!):
We're looking for an apartment in Chicago and found an ad on Craigslist for an amazing sounding place in exactly the neighborhood we wanted for a very good, but believable price. We replied directly to the ad on Craigslist and got a call back in a few days from a man identifying himself as the realtor. He offered to show us the place that evening, and we set up an appointment. He met us there at the specified time and showed us the unit, which was above and beyond what we were hoping for. He explained that the landlord of the unit owned several other units in the building and that she lived in the neighborhood. We were thrilled. We took a rental app, which looked official and had the name of a real estate agency at the top. That night, we faxed over the app and heard back the next morning from the "agent" who said that we were the first applicants and the place would likely be ours, as long as we passed the credit check. He told us that we would have to get him a certified money order for earnest money (equal to one month's rent) which would also count towards our first month's rent, as well as a small fee for a credit check. He also told us that we'd pay the security deposit when we signed the lease.

From the moment I saw the place, I thought that it might be too good to be true... and it seemed strange to me that we needed to provide a money order rather than a standard check. My parents are real estate agents, so I ran the whole thing by them just to be cautious. At first, they assured me that everything seemed okay-- they explained that agents working on rentals receive their commission from the earnest money, and my dad suggested that maybe the agent wanted a certified check so that he wouldn't get scammed with a bounced check. Just to be safe, though, we googled the real estate agency listed on the app and found nothing. Then, she looked up the name of the agent and the company in the MLS (the official listing service of the National Association of Realtors) and there was no listening for either. Beginning to worry, we called the number listed on the app (we had previously contacted the agent on his cell) and we got a voice mail service with several company names, all related to financing. As a precaution, my father decided to come with us to meet with the "agent" on the day we were supposed to provide the earnest money. My dad asked the man if he could see his real estate license, which he had conveniently forgotten. My dad asked why his company didn't have a website, and he explained that he wasn't working as a broker and that this was only a part time gig. My dad then asked why the man was requiring us to pay in money order rather than standard checks, and he explained that this was required by the state... My father knew from his own work as an agent that this wasn't true. My dad pointed out that his agency never, under any circumstances, required money orders from clients-- and the man explained that this was just his policy and he was inflexible. I then asked if we could have the name of the owner, and the "agent" gave us a name, which was relatively generic. We asked if we could call her then and there, and he agreed to call her and pass us the phone. My dad talked to the "owner" and she was somewhat defensive, but insisted that the deal was legit. She also mentioned that she was in rehab and wouldn't be available to meet with us for some time. After we hung up, the "agent" referenced the owner again and this time used a slightly different last name (first it was fitzgerald, then fitzpatrick). After all of this, I explained that we were not comfortable putting down earnest money at this time, but that we would be willing to do so if he were able to provide us with credible proof of the deal's legitimacy (e.g. a valid real estate license). We left it that we'd get in touch with him to set up a meeting in the future, but, at this point, we're not planning to call back.

I'm not providing the name of the "agent" or company at this point because I'm not 100% sure that this was a scam and I don't want to defame an honest person who just didn't know what he was doing.... But this certainly sounds fishy, doesn't it? I wish there was a way to know for sure b/c part of me is still fantasizing about living in that apartment....


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 Post subject: Re: Chicago Apartment Rental Scam committed by Jason Booth
PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 6:55 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 31, 2003 10:09 pm
Posts: 2921
I am glad to see that you are doing your research. I don't know much about renting apartments, but you would think that there would be a way to find out who owns the building so that you can find out if all of this is legit. Did you just see pictures of the apartment, or did you actually walk through the apartment?

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 Post subject: Re: Chicago Apartment Rental Scam committed by Jason Booth
PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 4:05 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:02 pm
Posts: 2
You can check property records to see if the stated owner is indeed the owner. Property records are public. We checked out the owner of the next condo we rented. This guy did ask us for a money order, but we refused and gave him a personal check. However, the check did not give us any more protection than the money order. The bank was of no help because we did in fact give him the check. Hope your apartment turned out to be the real thing.


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