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ConsumerWatch: Credit Check Scam Targets Renters

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(CBS)

(CBS)

PACIFICA (CBS 5) — Finding a reasonably priced apartment in the Bay Area is already a challenge. Now renters have to deal with a scam that is making a comeback.

When Rianon Cepriano found a rental ad on Craigslist, she thought she found a good deal. “A standalone home that was here in Pacifica and it was $300 cheaper than we were normally paying,” Cepriano said.

But there was one condition: on the ad there was a link leading viewers to a website called Credit Report, which charges a fee. In this case, the website was charging $20 a month after a 7-day free trial period.

The listing said if interested renters did not obtain their credit score through the website, the property would not be shown. But according to Rafe Needleman from CNET, it is a scam. Not by Credit Report but by the person who placed the rental ad known as an affiliate.

“That intermediary site if they direct traffic to the credit reporting company they get a kickback for that re-direction,” Needleman said. “It’s a referral deal.”

Credit Report would not disclose how much they pay affiliates to direct customers to their site. But they did confirm the Craigslist ad was placed by a third party and is now blocking that party’s access to its site. As for Cepriano, she said she realized the ad was too good to be true when no one called her back to set up an appointment.

Last year, a similar online rental scam surfaced the internet resulting in Craigslist to warn consumers about not submitting credit checks or background checks until there was direct contact. But it’s not just apartment rentals Needleman said. “If it moves off of rentals, it’ll move to car buying or computer buying, it’ll always be there,” he said. Affiliates do not get access to personal information that customers provide to the sites they simply get a fee for their referral.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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