When Los Angeles comedian Vickie Eisenstein was forced to move during the pandemic, she was ecstatic when she spotted what appeared to be a spacious one-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood listed online for just $1,100 per month.
“This just seemed like my dream place,” Eisenstein told Inside Edition.
But the listing agent said that he wasn’t showing the apartment in-person due to COVID-19. She only agreed to the sight-unseen arrangement after he emailed her a rental agreement along with his realtor’s license status.
“I showed the rental agreement to my parents and my boyfriend and all said it looked pretty legit,” Eisenstein said.
She sent a $2,000 dollar deposit and recorded her excitement before heading to see the place. But when move-in day came, there was no realtor and no keys. The listing was a scam, and Eisenstein called the police.
The same scam is playing out in cities everywhere amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In New York City, Inside Edition’s Investigative Unit spotted a listing on Craigslist for a luxury one-bedroom with spectacular views.
With a price of $1,200 per month, the deal seemed too good to be true. And it turns out—it was.
In an almost identical scenario that Eisenstein experienced, the agent we contacted said he couldn’t show the apartment because of COVID-19. Instead, he’d send a pre-recorded video walk-through. He also sent a copy of his realtor’s license and driver’s license. All we had to do was send him the first month’s rent and a deposit.
On move-in day, the agent was a no-show. We found out that the penthouse apartment that was supposed to be available goes for $4,000 per month and was already occupied.
Brian Letendre, a licensed real estate broker and director of agent productivity with Bond New York, told Inside Edition's Steven Fabian that you should never send money to people you don’t know.
He also added if you can’t see an apartment in person due to COVID-19, insist that the realtor give you a live, virtual tour so you can see their face and make sure the apartment matches the listing.