Consumer Alert: Rochester Police warn residents about a rental scam

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The rental crisis in Rochester is so dire, it’s a scammer’s playground.

And that led to a warning from the Rochester police Thursday concerning thieves pretending to be potential landlords.

Consider the fact that more than 60% of Flower City Residents rent. And according to Zillow, the median rent price in Rochester this month is $1,300.

Now consider the fact that the household income in the poorest zip code in Rochester is $17,000. That means the median rent is out of reach for many in our city, leaving folks desperate to find a decent place to live.

Rochester Police say scammers are taking advantage of that by listing apartments for rent on Craigslist that they neither own nor have any connection to. They claim to be out of town and say they’ll overnight the keys after you send the deposit.

News10NBC’s Berkeley Brean investigated a similar scam two years ago in which thieves advertised vacation homes they didn’t own. Now, imagine you’re the person who actually owns that vacation home. That was the experience of one Else Reed who lives on Canandaigua Lake.

“It’s a very odd situation to all of a sudden have people standing in front of your door with suitcases and ready to move in,” she said.

That happened to Reed time and again. She posted her home for rent on sites like VRBO. Then scammers would copy her listing and post it on Craigslist for a ridiculously low price. The victims would send the deposit then show up at her house, often angry with her that they’d fallen for a scam.

It’s important to note that these scammers are good. They sound legitimate. They may send you a legitimate rental contract and even text you a photo ID of a person they claim to be.

Police say don’t fall for it. Never give anyone money for a deposit if they are not willing to meet you at the location and show you the apartment first.