Renter beware: a recent report from Florida is a good reminder to check more than a landlord's Craigslist profile when scrounging for last-minute off-campus housing.
Two Florida women suffered blows to their wallets and sense of online security, reported the Daily Mail, after a 27-year-old homeless man allegedly duped them out of $1,375 by renting a foreclosed home he falsely claimed was his property. After his arrest, he told police he wanted to use the stolen money to find a home his own.
Eric Sisson placed an ad on Craigslist advertising a vacant house for rent in Ormond Beach, Fla. According to theDaily Mail, the house belongs to a Port Orange, Fla. woman, who told police that she did not know Sisson and that her property was vacant was foreclosed on.
A 19-year-old female responded to his Craigslist ad, and Sisson had her tour the home without him present, according to reports. The home was unlocked, and after the young woman decided she wanted to live there, Sisson met with her and collected $400 in cash on June 25.
The two met again on the following day so the woman could pay the last of the rent deposit. She gave him $550; she then became skeptical of the situation, and feeling something was amiss, backed out of the deal and requested her money back.
Sisson obliged, writing her a check for her money, according to reports. However, when she went to cash it, she discovered the account tied to the check had been closed. The 19-year-old’s father went to the advertised property and discovered another woman, a 29-year-old, renting from Sisson and planning to play another month's rent. The Sun Sentinel reported that the 29-year-old had paid Sisson $425.
After speaking with the real owner of the home, authorities arrested Sisson Sunday. He allegedly lied, claiming he had bought the Ormond Beach home three weeks ago, before eventually confessing that he ran his scam so he could afford a place to live.
Police reports state that he is charged with scheme to defraud, two counts of grand theft under $5,000, three counts of burglary to an occupied dwelling, issuing worthless checks and obtaining property by fraud. His new home is the Volusia County Jail.
This incident is hardly unusual, but schools such as New York University, offer avoidance advice and an anecdotal cautionary tale about Craigslist apartment scams to students seeking off-campus housing.
Sites like Nolo.com and eHow offer comprehensive guides to renter and tenant legal rights and ways to spot a Craigslist scam artist from taking your money. Students should be sure to look up renter rights in their particular state of residency, as some states offer tenants more rights than others.