Property Grunt

Friday, May 02, 2008

Going Down

Hear about the Craigslist scammer?

Craigslist scams targeting renters desperate for affordable apartments

Monday, February 11th 2008, 4:00 AM

The apartment sounded too good to be true.

A fully furnished two-bedroom with a balcony in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, going for $950 instead of the $2,200 it would normally fetch because of the tenant's sudden job transfer.

The catch: You have to take it sight unseen - and send a security deposit.

The bogus rental was even more of a steal than unsuspecting would-be tenants thought, part of a growing number of scams cooked up to profit from gullible people desperate for affordable housing in the city, according to Internet fraud and security expert Craig Solomon.

"It is becoming more common because New York apartments have become such a hot commodity," said Solomon. "People are so desperate that they aren't always thinking clearly."

This particular listing on, the go-to site for frazzled city dwellers, featured appealing photos and a quick response to inquiries from a scam artist who used the alias "JoAnn Rinaggio" and a tale about being transferred to North Carolina.

"I will like to tell you that we are doing this based on trust and I would like you to trust me as I trust you. ... You can see the beautiful apartment in the pictures, but not in person yet," she writes, asking prospective tenants to wire a $550 security deposit and promising a return envelope with the apartment keys.

According to Solomon, "countless" victims fell for this ruse, sent money, never heard back from "Rinaggio" and learned the hard way that the address for the dream apartment, 8235 Fourth Ave., also was bogus.

Documents obtained by the Daily News show the phony name was used by a convicted serial rubber-check writer, JoAnne Smith, who was convicted nine times between 1986 and 2004 for fake checks totaling $20,000.

"Craigslist is made to sell local, and whenever anyone from out of state is involved, red flags should immediately go up," said Solomon. "Avoiding the scam is simple. Try to always do business face-to-face, and never, ever, wire money anywhere."

This is also the advice posted under "avoiding scams and fraud" by Craigslist on its Web site, which urges users not to wire money, give out personal financial information or respond to any offers requiring you to provide escrow money.

"Know that only a scammer will 'guarantee' your transaction," Craigslist warns.

Beth Ann Bovino, a senior economist at Standard & Poor's, found herself caught up in such a scam when someone posted her address and photos of it as a bargain rental.

"Rents are higher and people are in real need of an affordable place to live," said Bovino. "It is sad to say, but these kinds of scams appeal to desperation and greed."

"People need to remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Here's how it works folks. Never ever give put up the money until you are approved and have a signed lease.

The process is very simple, you pay for the processing fee for the credit check. If you are rejected, you look for another apartment. If you are accepted, then you prepare the checks for the lease signing which will be usually 3 months of rent in certified checks. This covers the safety deposit, first and last month's rent. And the broker's check, if you have used one.

You bring the checks to the lease signing. Once the lease is approved by all parties and signed. Then the checks are released.

Co-ops and condos, the process is different since the board will want to see everything up front in the board package. So you should make copies of the checks and have a signed agreement that will return the checks if you are rejected or if you find another place during the review process. As we all know, it could take a week or month for the board to make a decision. So you should be prepared to be rejected and look for a back up.

Preston over at the Observer sent me this link which I sounded like a complete joke.

Developers Vornado Realty Trust and the Related Companies are grasping for options to keep alive a multi-billion dollar redo of Penn Station and related real estate development, as they have asked the city and state to back a loan to build a new Madison Square Garden in the Farley Post Office across Eight Avenue.

The proposal is intended to lure the Garden back to the table, as the company, led by Chairman James Dolan, pulled out of the larger plan in March. The state is considering the offer as one of many options for the project, a state official confirmed.

In this option, the state and city could be saddled with the cost of the arena—said to be in the range of $900 million to $1 billion—should the larger redo of Penn Station ultimately fall apart.

This is not going to happen and not because of Madison Square Garden.

Gov. David Paterson said spending in the $121.7 billion state budget must be re-examined and lowered in the coming weeks, in light of dramatic drops in tax payments from major Wall Street banks.

Whether legislators in both political parties will take those actions this year remains to be seen, given that all 212 of them are up for election in November. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick) candidly remarked that his goal for the legislation session was "to get out of session."

Paterson repeated calls for fiscal restraint that he started making before the budget passed the state Legislature on April 10, during an event in Troy on Monday. The budget is balanced, but Paterson has said he wants to identify permanent spending cuts now that will reduce a potential $4 billion deficit for the 2009-10 budget.

"We can't afford to be rolling the dice on where the economy is going," Paterson said.

In other words: NO ONE HAS ANY F**KING MONEY!

It appears that even former baseball stars are not immune to foreclosure.

Former baseball star Jose Canseco has Calif. home foreclosed Thu May 1, 10:46 PM ET

Jose Canseco, the former AL MVP who made millions during his baseball career, has had his home foreclosed.

Canseco told the syndicated TV show "Inside Edition" that he walked away from his $2.5 million, 7,300-square foot home in suburban Encino because it didn't make sense to continue making payments.

"I do have a judgment on my home and it to me is very strange because it didn't make financial sense for me to keep paying a mortgage on a home that was basically owned by someone else," he said in an interview that aired Thursday.

"You know my life, this financial thing, is a very complicated issue. Obviously, when you make all that money, people think, `OK, let's assume it is $35 million.' People have to understand that $35 million, you're paying the government 41 percent. That leaves you with about $17 or $18 million, not even. Then you're taking care of your whole family."

He added that a couple of divorces cost him $7 million or $8 million.

Canseco said his top earnings year was $6 million and that his financial situation obviously is different than most people who are losing their homes.

"What about other families that we're hearing on TV, that they're saying, `We have nowhere else to go,'" he said. "I mean, that is amazing. I've got books (he's put out two expose-type books on drug use in baseball), we're now trying to produce the movie to both.

"Like I said, my situation was a little more different than most. I decided to just let it (the house) go, but in most cases and most families, they have nowhere else to go."

Calls by The Associated Press to Canseco and to his attorney, Greg Emerson, were not immediately returned.

The lesson here is simple. Do your due diligence and make sure you have the money to cover your payments.