Skip to content
CityLab
Justice

Everything Is a Lie, But Especially That Cheap Apartment Listing

Tenant beware: Some cities are hotbeds of rental fraud, and Millennials are the most vulnerable targets.
In hot markets, renters can be easy prey for apartment fraud.
In hot markets, renters can be easy prey for apartment fraud. Mel Evans/AP

In case you haven’t heard, we are officially in the summer of scams. There’s the fake German socialite racketeer who stole thousands before ending up in Rikers. There’s the mattress-ordering, private-plane-chartering, nepotism-wielding cabinet member who resigned, eventually, in disgrace. And of course there’s the still-unraveling “epic grift” that may lurk behind the current presidency.

Then there are the more run-of-the-mill ripoffs that have become part of the background noise of modern life, like apartment rental fraud. Think fake Craigslist deals and Zillow listings for apartments that don’t exist. In many cases, phantom landlords ask for application fees and deposits from aspiring renters before agreeing to show the place, then vanish with the cash. These kinds of advance-fee scams are all too common in the digital age, and the apartment market is no different: A new survey from ApartmentList indicates that 6.4 percent of renters have lost money in scams like this.