Craigslist removes less than half of suspicious rental listings, report says

If an affordable rental on Craigslist seems too good to be true, it probably is, according to a new study.

Craigslist removes “less than half of the suspicious listings,” according to the study, written by Damon McCoy, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at New York University, and two other professors.

McCoy said that conservatively, at least 1 to 2% of all Craigslist rental listings in the 20 cities, including New York, his team surveyed are scams. “We detected about 29,000 scam listings over the 20 cities we monitored,” in 141 days, researchers wrote.

Problem listings included the advertising of properties that were not available or not lawfully owned by the advertiser, “fee fraud” (the request for money up front) and “bait and switch” tactics.

One or two per cent doesn’t seem to represent a high danger, but McCoy said the real percentage is likely much higher: “Scam listings are going to remain posted until they are flagged or expire, so using the search and map feature of CL might locate more scams, assuming that legitimate listings are rented quickly and taken down by the poster before they expire,” McCoy explained.

Craigslist said that based on the researchers’ data, “out of the roughly 10 million housing ads posted to those 20 major cities on Craigslist in 141 days, that works out to 0.3%.”

“Apartment hunters should not send any money or do anything requested by the person that listed the rental ad until (they visit) the property in person,” said McCoy. “If the person is not willing or able to show the apartment for whatever reason, it is likely a scam,” he said.