Over the past year or so I have received a few emails from clients that are looking to rent a home and searching Craigslist and ask me if I can get them more information or if they have to contact the owner on it.
Most times the listings they are asking about, the ones that sound to good to be true, usually are victims to the Craigslist Scam. If you are looking on Craigslist for rentals, and the home that you desire to rent is a newer home, with 3 or 4 bedrooms, in a suburban neighborhood, some of the listings you see sound to good to be true, it probably is.
The Craigslist scam has been out for a few years now, and no area is safe from it.
You might be saying what is the scam? Well the scam is when:
Listings that are listed for sale with an agent on public search websites are put onto Craigslist as rental properties. The people behind the scam take the pictures off the listings and post them on Craigslist along with the public information that describes the home for potential buyers.
Things to look for:
The rental price seems way to low for a home of that size and location. Most of the listings that are a scam are listed with very low monthly rent to lure people in. Check what other homes in the area are renting for or contact an agent to help you find a home. If the rent is a lot lower than most in the area, walk away before you get scammed and lose money.
If you email them and ask to see the home, and they say that they are out-of-town, some might tell you that you can drive by the home to see it, or might even tell you that there might still be a for sale sign in the yard since they were trying to sell it. Walk away before you get scammed or if there is a For Sale sign in the yard, call the agent or company that is on the sign. You will be informing the agent of the listing and helping to protect the owner.
If you drive by and then email them that you want to rent the property most of them will send you an email telling you its the rental application and ask for personal information like social security number, bank accounts, credit cards and such. If you send them the information you just opened yourself up for identity fraud. Don’t send them the information, walk away.
Most will tell you to wire the first month, security or application fee to them via Western Union or Money-gram. Never send any money to a landlord this way. Always meet with them or a local management company.
If they don’t ask for a credit check, background check, or reference this is another red flag. Most landlords and all management companies will ask and conduct at least one if not all of these before renting their home.
If you find a listing that you know is a scam and have checked it out make sure you also report on Craigslist as a scam. You could be saving someone else from any loss or damage.
If you think or know you have been scammed, make sure you check your credit reports, and cancel any credit card numbers or bank accounts you might have given out. Also notify Craigslist of the scam and report on their site.
- FTC Video: How to report scams to the FTC
- FTC online complaint form
- FTC toll-free hotline: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357)
Always check with the Better Business Bureau if you have any doubt on a company. Better safe then sorry.