My family works in real estate and has for decades. Recently they’ve noticed an increase in online scams.
These criminals will copy legitimate property listings and repost them on Craigslist or other sites with only two changes, real estate agent contact information and price. The prices/rent will be so low that it attracts people into contacting the “real estate agent”, a criminal they end up speaking to through the altered contact information.
This person will say something like “This is going to be rented fast, send me the deposit and you’ll be able to rent it if you want. Go check out the house/apartment and if you don’t like it I’ll send you the deposit back. I’ll meet you there to let you in”.
And yes, people fall for it.
But this is all bullshit. This is not how any reputable professional will operate. In addition to taking money they’ll take any and all personal information a person will share like address, phone numbers, SSN, occupation, marital status, etc.
I’ve heard first hand when real estate agents have had to explain to a person that they’ve been scammed and they fell for a bogus listing copied from a real one. It’s always a tough one to hear.
It’s ok to insist that you meet a real estate agent in their office. Ask to see their real estate license. I don’t know about all states but I know some have a professional license database you can search online to see if someone is actually licensed (for other professions too). In addition, many reputable real estate companies have websites where you can see the pictures and contact information of their agents. Check those against listings. Lastly, search multiple sites for the same listing. If information doesn’t line up then question it.
I hope this helps you out!