CHICAGO (CBS) — A legitimate apartment listing was copied and pasted on a different website – and was apparently used in a scam to get money quick.
A Chicago North Side resident hunting for an apartment says he almost fell victim.READ MORE: Jelani Day's Mother 'Pissed' At Authorities' Handling Of Son's Disappearance Before His Body Was Found
And as CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported Thursday night, there is a pandemic twist to it.
This appears to be a scammer hiding behind text messages and social media accounts, preying on people in a hurry to rent an apartment.
For $1,500 a month, Drake Fitzsimmons thought he had found his new rental apartment. He flagged the unit on Facebook marketplace. It was posted by a user who goes by “Stevany Ann Large” and describes herself as “a mother trying her best.”
“It looks like a really big place, a really nice place, and close by to where I live now,” Fitzsimmons said.
But when Fitzsimmons asked to check the place out on Burling Street near Diversey Parkway – right on the cusp of Lincoln Park and Lakeview – he was told he couldn’t.
“They said that there were COVID protocols and I couldn’t go visit the apartment,” he said.
But there was a way out of that suggested.
“They said, ‘If you’d wire me $60 as an application fee, I’ll send you the application, you can fill it out, and then we can go in and sign the lease right away,’” Fitzsimons said.READ MORE: Jordan Hassell Charged With Making Multiple Social Media Threats Targeting Chicago Public Schools
He said they were pretty aggressive in trying to get the money too.
“That was the biggest sign to me that it must have been a scam,” Fitzsimmons said.
So Fitzsimmons did some digging. He found an identical listing on Zillow – owned by someone else and asking for a higher rent of $1,895. He believes the Zillow posting to be legitimate, and the Facebook posting a scam.
“It’s an unethical way to make a quick buck,” he said.
So CBS 2’s De Mar texted the number for the so-called bogus Facebook listing, asking for information. Within seconds, he was sent pictures of the listing on Burling Street.
De Mar went on to ask to see the apartment – and got the exact same message that Fitzsimmons got in his texting correspondent. The apartment was not available to look at because of COVID protocols, and we would have to wire money.
De Mar then informed the person at the number that he is with CBS. We waited, and were still waiting for a comment late Thursday.
“You used COVID as a reason that we couldn’t meet up. That’s also kind of a cheap way,” Fitzsimmons said. “It’s a global pandemic. Don’t use that as your scam.”MORE NEWS: COVID-19 In Illinois: Case Count Declines For 3rd Consecutive Week; Infection Rate Lowest Since July
Fitzsimmons reported the Facebook post as a scam. He did not fall victim, but he does want his story to be a warning for others.