Rental Scam Alert!
I first described this Craigslist scam last December and then again in this February, 2012 post. The scam involves unknown parties with generic email addresses offering properties for rent which are listed by legitimate real estate companies. The scammers scrape listing information from legitimate sites, then, offering the properties for well below market rents, solicit deposits and personal information in the form of a rental application from consumers gullible enough to think they are getting a great deal. Of course they are getting such a great deal that they don’t consider meeting a rental agent in person or walking through the property.
I have responded to the scammers, but never taken it as far as real estate blogger Jay Thompson did in his post Anatomy of a Rental Scam. Basically, the scammers portray themselves as having to be out of the country and want a really good renter. Each email exchange asks for more information, and eventually a deposit in exchange for instructions on how to obtain the keys. The ads look like any other Craigslist ad:
Unfortunately, very few consumers take the time to review Craigslist’s scam warnings. Craigslist provides scam warnings here. Real estate listings all have a scam alert in the header which takes you to this useful information:
You can sidestep would-be scammers by following these common-sense rules:
- DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON - follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts on craigslist.
- NEVER WIRE FUNDS VIA WESTERN UNION, MONEYGRAM or any other wire service – anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer.
- FAKE CASHIER CHECKS & MONEY ORDERS ARE COMMON, and BANKS WILL CASH THEM AND THEN HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE when the fake is discovered weeks later.
- CRAIGSLIST IS NOT INVOLVED IN ANY TRANSACTION, and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services, or offer “buyer protection” or “seller certification”
- NEVER GIVE OUT FINANCIAL INFORMATION (bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)
- AVOID DEALS INVOLVING SHIPPING OR ESCROW SERVICES and know that ONLY A SCAMMER WILL “GUARANTEE” YOUR TRANSACTION.
- DO NOT RENT HOUSING WITHOUT SEEING THE INTERIOR, OR PURCHASE EXPENSIVE ITEMS SIGHT-UNSEEN - in all likelihood that housing unit is not actually for rent and that cheap item does not exist.
- DO NOT SUBMIT TO CREDIT CHECKS OR BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR A JOB OR FOR HOUSING UNTIL YOU HAVE MET THE INTERVIEWER OR LANDLORD/AGENT IN PERSON.
BEWARE!! If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be very wary. Don’t say you haven’t been warned!