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“It was a carbon copy of the ad that I put out:” West Allis landlord warns apartment hunters about rental scam

WEST ALLIS — If you're looking for a new place to live, you need to be on the lookout for potential scams. One landlord discovered someone else was advertising his apartment for rent.

Chris Tanke owns a four-unit apartment building in West Allis. Tanke is looking to rent out one of the units, so he posted an ad on Craigslist.

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Landlord Chris Tanke gives Contact 6's Jenna Sachs a tour of one of his units.

Weeks after posting the ad, Tanke discovered he wasn't the only person advertising his unit.

"It was a carbon copy of the ad that I put out," Tanke said about the ad he saw on Craigslist.

A scammer had taken his Craiglist ad, copied and re-posted it with a few changes. The new post had changed the contact information and lowered the rental price.

"The price was $300 to $400 less than what I was advertising for," Tanke said.

Tanke immediately flagged the scammer's post and took down his ad. Tanke also sent a message to the scammer, asking if the apartment had been taken. He got a response saying the unit was still available.

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"I asked to see it and they did not respond to that, but apparently they have responded to other folks," Tanke said.

FOX6's Contact 6 sent a message inquiring about the apartment to the scammer. Contact 6 got a response from someone claiming to be "Homer Martinez" in Chicago. The e-mail was not well written, but said Homer's husband is being transferred to West Africa and they're looking for a "clean and reliable person to take care of the home."

Contact 6 was told they could drive by the address and offered to send an application. When Contact 6 responded requesting to talk on the phone, there was no response.

Tanke said he just wants buyers and renters to know this could happen to them.

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A portion of the e-mail Contact 6 received after inquiring about a scammer's fake apartment rental post on Craigslist.

"If this can help somebody to not fall for a scam, that's the reason I did it," Tanke said.

Contact 6 reached out to Craigslist for comment on this, but did not hear back.

If you're looking to rent an apartment, you should never deal with a person who won't talk with you on the phone or won't let you tour the apartment before you put money down.

The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau has several tips for anyone apartment hunting online.  The BBB says to watch out for specific situations that are signs of a scam:

  • The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
  • The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate solely through email. If the landlord claims they are unable to show you the apartment because they are traveling - or recently relocated due to work - this is often a sign it’s a scam.
  • The listing contains misspellings or grammatical errors. In most cases, this means the ad was created by a scammer overseas, one who isn’t familiar with the nuances of the English language.
  • High-pressure tactics are being used. Though the rental market is tight, there are always places for rent. Don’t be afraid to walk away you if you feel pressured to sign a lease. Ask for a copy of the lease agreement and give yourself enough time to review it in detail, including the fine print

5 comments

  • Lets take them scammers to town!

    Yup sick of these scammers just like the phone people, wish the government, state, and federal workers would crack down on this vs the bs they are so used to or wasting time. Too many agents and not enough customer service since too much corruption.

  • merimaxc

    So true and frustrating to have this happen a lot when you’re apartment hunt in and hoping to find a house at great price I’m always getting emails while apartment hunting from fake owners requesting my bank account etc like it’s going to be that easy to fool serious inquiries for a good home I suggest Craigslist help us by scanning the fake ones before we see them and get taken for a loop.
    Sincerely, Maria frustrated apartment hunter

  • Metal Maniac

    I always wonder how much these scammers actually make doing this stuff? There CANT be that many people who actually willing to give someone money down on an apartment sight unseen. Even here in Los Angeles you get a chance to see the apartment and our rental market is absolutely insane.

  • Crystal Wubker

    I was just scammed out of a place for rent on craigslist just before seeing this video . 3674 S. 35 Greenfield. Sent the security deposit to the number 813-280-5717 last Thursday. I was told the keys and documents would be sent that same day, was not sent. Then was contacted by another number 347-460-9485 apologizing and asking me to send 500 to secure the place

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