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This, Atlanta, is What a Lowdown Rental Scam Looks Like

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For your benefit/amusement, Curbed Atlanta contributor Tyler Estep outlines his recent ordeal with a scam artist posing as a legitimate Atlanta landlord.

At one point or another, everyone's been slapped with the letter I got last week. To paraphrase: "Dear Apartment Tenant: You and your wife are great. You really are. We know you've lived here for two years and like it. But you know what? We like money, too, and the market says we can get more of it from someone else. If you'd like to stay, you can pay $XXX more every month for nothing extra. Signed, Intown Atlanta Rental Company." This letter warranted two responses: "Screw you, Unnamed Property Manager!" and then, "Honey, let's start looking for another place to live." Which is where this story begins.

Effectively bounced from our cozy 1920s apartment in Poncey-Highland (where they're inconveniently constructing a new building in our parking lot), my wife and I began scouting the Internet for a new home. We're young and just aren't ready to buy something quite yet, for a few reasons, so renting was still the way to go. We checked out the Lovely app, which essentially aggregates Craigslist and other listings into a handy-dandy, searchable map.

And there it was — a freshly renovated HOUSE just off North Highland Avenue, right across from DBA Barbecue, El Taco, etc. Beautiful, walkable, near our current place. And the rent? $800!

Now I know what you're thinking, Reader, and I was skeptical too. A scam? Some kind of catch? A basement apartment? Maybe just a really dumb owner?

Well, I'm a journalist and curious by nature, so I sent a short email to the "landlord" through Lovely: "Is the rent on this house really only $800?"

The reply came quickly:

Alrighty then. Clearly something's up, but let's keep going and see what happens. I said we were technically on a lease through the end of October but might be able to get out sooner.

More poor grammar and nothing was attached. Scam. Let's stop suffering fools. My response:

At this point, I had dug through property records and found the name of the home's owner, then checked out a couple of social media accounts. I had also discovered something else — that the home was listed for sale. For $565,000, no less.

The scammer cut to the chase:

Jesus. The name was actually right, albeit clearly copied and pasted into some kind of document.

After a fairly generic "application," the email closed with this gem:

My mind was officially blown. My time officially wasted. I reported the listing as a scam through the Lovely site and contacted the house's owner through the Zillow listing (not sure if they've seen it). The odds of catching someone like this aren't very good ... but hey, can't hurt.

One lesson, kids: Always be careful when trying to find a place to live. You can feel it out a little bit (even have a little fun!), but obviously don't supply anything in the way of personal information. The main thing to remember, though, is that most criminals aren't very intelligent people. Owners of really nice properties probably don't write emails like fourth-grade Russian speed-typers.

Happy hunting!

— By Curbed Atlanta contributor Tyler Estep