In recent months, a variety of rental scams have targeted people looking for housing on the East End. While many renters were able to avoid the schemes after they wised up to what was happening, others have fallen victim.
Scammers, who could be from out of state or even in another country, often use online advertisements that make it difficult for authorities to track them down. While police reports are somewhat frequent, arrests related to such scams are rare.
As the public and the police catch on to the latest scams, grifters change their tactics. The best defense for renters looking for both short-term and permanent housing is awareness and a healthy dose of skepticism, especially when a rental ad appears too good to be true. In some cases, scammers have duplicated legitimate rental listings and added their own contact information.
In Tuckahoe recently, the owner of a rental home was surprised to learn that a couple had shown up at the house expecting to stay for Memorial Day weekend. The problem was, she wasn’t the tenant the couple booked the rental with. In fact, the house was already rented out by legitimate tenants from May through August, according to a police report. The owner learned that the house was fraudulently listed on Craigslist.
The victims later contacted Southampton Town Police and explained that they gave the person who purported to be the property owner $3,500 for the rental. Because the scheme unfolded over the internet, tracking the scammer may be impossible.
A Noyac homeowner learned last month from an interested renter that her listing on HomeAway was also on Craigslist — but she never put her listing on Craigslist. The fraudulent ad used the same photos and description as her post. She told police that she feared multiple duped people would show up at the house on the first of the month expecting to stay there.
In April, Southampton Town Police and Suffolk County Crime Stoppers named a wanted suspect in an unrelated rental scam. The suspect is Bakhrom Talipov, 48, who also goes by Victoria Jacobs, and police allege the scam took place in March last year. Authorities said Ms. Talipov collected $13,200 in rent from a prospective tenant of a Southampton home. The tenant tried to move in and discovered that Ms. Talipov was neither the homeowner nor the homeowner’s agent.
Authorities did not say whether Ms. Talipov did an in-person showing of the house prior to the victim paying.
A supposed landlord’s refusal to show a property is one sign of a possible scam. Scammers posing as a homeowner may insist that they are out of town and cannot meet up with a prospective tenant, while telling victims they can go to the house and peek in the windows and walk the property. If a supposed homeowner says not to call the phone number on a posted “for rent” sign and describes a falling out with a real estate agent, that is a red flag. That is how a scam artist tries to ensure the legitimate owner or representative of a property will not disrupt the con.
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