New Scam Spreading Across the Nation

( – At least six people in the District of Columbia, Florida, and Nevada have claimed to have been tricked by a scammer assuming the identity of a landlord by the name of “Paul Schwartz.” One report was filed in Washington D.C. in 2019, another was filed in Fort Lauderdale in 2020, and four were filed from late 2020 to mid-2021 in Reno. Unfortunately, this type of scam is becoming more and more common.

In all of the incidents, victims described being duped by an apartment listing advertised on Craigslist, only to be scammed into sending hundreds of dollars to cover a security deposit or the first month of rent in advance. According to Reno and Fort Lauderdale police, the culprit has stolen the identity of the real Paul Schwartz to hide his own identity while running the scam operation.

Lisa Jones, a former resident of Knoxville, Tennessee, planned on a fresh start and wanted to move to Milwaukee at the end of December 2023. She also came across a listing on Craigslist showing an affordable and furnished bottom floor of a house that was available for rent.

Jones communicated with the individual posing as Schwartz, who showed her his ID. Though Jones wondered why the scammer did not have a Wisconsin license, he claimed he only lived at the address on his ID part-time. She sent the scammer the $600 security deposit and only realized she had been duped when she drove for ten hours to Milwaukee.

Jones has struggled to recover from the scam and has been living in her car since the incident. Police have struggled to locate the suspect because of the difficulties they face in attempting to trace email accounts, phone numbers, and transactions on money transfer apps. The money sent to the culprit’s account on Zelle was immediately invested in cryptocurrency, which is difficult to trace.

As the scam spreads across the country, several warning signs can raise alarm bells about a fake listing, including watermarked images lifted from other listing services, vague listing details, and a willingness to go through with the transaction without the buyer’s background information. Agencies and trustworthy sites are recommended, and requests to use alternative payment methods or a sense the transaction is being rushed through are also potential red flags.

The FBI released an internet crime report in 2022, which found that 11,727 people nationwide fell victim to rental fraud or real estate investment scams in 2022.

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