About a year ago, I received a phone call from a woman that saw a Craigslist listing for a house we rent. She was directed to drive by and take a look at the outside of the home then get back in touch with the “owner.” The woman did drive by, but she also stopped and knocked on the door. The current resident was surprised to see this woman; this is not a common practice for our company. The current resident and the prospective resident talked a bit and determined that the person posting the ad was not the owner of the home. It was a scam!
The prospective resident shared this email from the scammer. At the time, I thought this was an isolated incident. Recently I read a story from ABC news called How Scammers Rent Out Occupied Houses and learned this is common and cost Americans a reported $20 million in 2014.
Here are 5 few tips to help you avoid this scam when looking for a rental house on Craigslist
- If it sounds too good to be true it probably is – In the incident we were involved, the home was advertised by the scammer at $800. In reality, the market rent for the home was about $1400.
- Never wire money – this is the root of the scam. The scammer will eventually ask for a deposit or first month & ask that you wire the money. Craigslist clearly states that you should never wire funds. If someone is asking to be wired money, IT’S A SCAM!!!
- Just look at the outside of the home – Since a scammer does not own the home, they cannot schedule a tour. They will likely say that you can drive by and look around the outside. If they are not willing or able to schedule a tour and meet you in person at the home then it’s likely a scam.
- Poor grammar & weird information provided – Scammers often have very poor grammar. In addition, they will often provide odd personal details. Here are a few examples from the scammer that we dealt with… “I am looking for a responsible adult/s that will take absolute care of my house when He/She moves in” or ” My job is really keeping me away from my lovely home but really do appreciate my job because it brings me closer to God.” Real landlords will not write like that.
- Do a reverse image search – The scammer often finds a legitimate listing somewhere on the Internet, then copies images and text from the legit listing to create the fake listing. If you suspect a listing might be a scam, you can do a reverse image search. This is even easier to do from a mobile device if you are using the Chrome browser. You just long press on an image and then select the “Search Google for this image” option. You do this to see if there are contradictory listings using the same image. If there is a different listing with different price and different contact info, you can be pretty sure it’s a scam.
Craigslist maintains a helpful page on their website for Avoiding Scams.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions about this topic. If you’ve had dealt with a rental housing scam on Craigslist or can provide any additional insight, please comment below.
PS: If you’re renting in Bloomington, just make it easy on yourself and rent from Bloomington’s favorite and most reputable landlord, ME!
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