LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- A 19-year-old engineering student at New Mexico State University says she was nearly scammed out of the money she desperately needed to find a new home close to campus.
Jeannina Pratt isn't alone as several other Las Cruces residents have recently dealt with a new rental scam that has been popping up around the community.
The Las Cruces Police Department has received at least two separate reports from victims who fell for the rental scam.
One victim lost about $1,600 and the over had over $2,000 taken.
According to police reports, the scammers are posting phony online ads on sites like Craigslist with pictures and information ripped off from real legitimate listings.
After exchanging emails, the scammers encourage the perspective tenant to electronically transfer a deposit and first month's rent before disappearing with their money.
“He wanted the first month which was going to be $1,000, and then he wanted a $1,000 deposit on top of that so it would have been $2,000, and it is hard to have something so valuable like that money just disappear,” said Pratt.
Pratt went with her mother to go check out the property that she had become interested in, but soon discovered that it had already been rented out.
Fortunately, she was given the phone number to the actual owner who was shocked at what he heard.
“The wording on that online ad was all my wording from the other post," said property owner Drake Miller. "He just copied and pasted and used the pictures but just put his email and it is a fictitious email account to talk with them.”
In response to the scam, Las Cruces police have made social media posts with tips and suggestions to potential renters.
They encourage prospective renters to avoid money transfers through the internet and to insist on conducting their own detailed walk-throughs of potential rental property prior to making a deposit.