Beware Of Scammers When You’re Searching For A New York City Sublet

A few tips to help you stay on guard

Rebeca Ansar
Jan 22, 2020 · 3 min read
Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

This year, I intend on stepping outside of my comfort zone. To do that, I plan to travel more and spend my money on experiences rather than things. In that pursuit, I’m on the hunt for a short-term NYC sublet. Having lived in San Francisco, I’m familiar with big city life, but I’m sure there are vast differences between the two coasts. I’ll soon discover what they are.

As I scrolled through webpage after webpage of sublet options on popular sites, I sent out emails asking if the apartment was still available to any promising leads. My plan was to schedule viewing times and nothing more.

It wasn’t until I began getting back weirdly phrased responses that I noticed a few concerning patterns. Many of the listings were scams.

Sigh.

Here are the three commonalities I’ve noticed in fake listings. This is by no means a comprehensive list.

I’m not a New Yorker, so I don’t have a ballpark range for what apartment rentals should cost. I went in having done some research and expecting the price to be similar to San Francisco's living costs, but I suppose I was still a little too optimistic.

If a modern, furnished apartment with airbrushed photos is going for a price that seems cheaper than it’s not so airbrushed counterparts, that’s at least a yellow flag. Also, heavy airbrushing of the images is sketchy.

I was sending out emails on a weekend evening, and I got back several response emails immediately that looked pre-drafted. When I read them closely, I found unnatural breaks in grammar or word choice that gave me an uneasy feeling.

When I didn’t respond for a while, I even received a follow-up email urging me to quickly get back to the person. It seemed weirdly pushy. I took it as an indicator to stay away from that listing.

You haven’t met them. They don’t know who you are. Why are they willing to do any kind of a business transaction with a stranger, especially in the more personal case of a sublet?

It’s surprising how little information someone needs about you to be able to hack you. Filling out a sublet application that asks for several of your personal details before meeting a real-life person or seeing the place isn’t a good idea.

If you must get started before you arrive on-site, be stingy with how much personal information you give out. Instead, it’s likely safest to ask them for an appointment time so you can go see the place and meet the person offering the sublet in person.

Google the phone number, the name, and any other information associated with the listing to ensure you’re dealing with a real person.

I googled one “broker” only to discover that they had sloppily used the name and email of another real broker in a completely different region of the country. The scammer’s LinkedIn picture looked legitimate and they even had connections, but there were serious discrepancies.

As for me, I’ll stick to only trying to schedule appointments before I arrive in New York City. With rental costs as high as they are there, I’m even more unwilling to lose money to a scammer.

An Amygdala

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