Broker Scam: Fake Real Estate Agent on the Prowl in East Village

Published on Aug 29, 2011

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Over the years we've heard the story countless times: a young couple or new-in-town professional answers an ad (it used to be on a flyer, posted on the street; now Craigslist and the like are the preferred trolling grounds), get shown a NYC rental apartment by a broker, love the place, hand over a security deposit... and never hear from him again. It's a classic broker scam that has been going on for years.

Turns out, of course, that the "broker" is just some guy who somehow got access to an empty NYC rental apartment, and shows it until someone (or multiple someones) takes the bait and plunks down anywhere from $150 (a ridiculously low number that should have been their first clue that something was amiss) to several thousand dollars (a more standard NYC rental apartment deposit security amount).

I bring this up today because just last week there were reports from the East Village that the classic scam is alive and well, as 48-year-old Renato Bardini was arrested and charged with defrauding two separate East Village rental apartment hunters. According to police, Bardini showed an East Village rental apartment on Third Street near First  Avenue. His first victim gave him a $500 security deposit plus a $75 "application fee"; his second victim handed over more than $3000 for security, rent, and broker's fee. The financial loss here is bad enough for both parties, but even worse may be that horrible realization that the NYC rental apartment you think you had, isn't yours after all.

This is not an isolated event. Earlier this summer, NBC New York did a report on scams involving condos for rent... that were never really available for rent.

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If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Yes, the apartment market can move quickly here, but be wary of anyone who pressures you to give them money without a signed lease.  Don't be afraid to do research on the person you meet with, or the company they claim to represent. Tell them you will meet them in their office to sign the lease and hand over the money. Ask to see their ID, or if in the case of a broker, ask to see their "pocket card" which identifies them as a licensed broker.

While it's true that some landlords ask for a "good faith" deposit of several hundred dollars while your application is reviewed (returned if you are rejected, kept if you are accepted but decline to sign a lease), you should get a receipt for the money from the broker or the landlord themselves.

The lesson in all of this? Be careful out there, be alert to possible broker scams... and find your NYC rental apartment through Urban Edge (where there are never ANY brokers, fake or otherwise), or a similar reputable website.

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