Craiglist Renter/Landlord ScammersInternet scammers have been the plague of online life for a long time, and their tricks seem to multiply over time.  If you are either a landlord or potential renter using Craigslist to connect, you should be aware of the scammers on Craigslist.

Scamming the Landlord:

You post an ad on Craigslist and someone contacts you saying they want to rent your place, sight-unseen. They provide you some very believable reason why they cannot see it, often with some urgency involved.  They would then want to wire or send you the deposit, often more than requested (see the bait?) and would suddenly need a smaller part of that deposit back.  Their money to you doesn’t clear and you have sent them real funds back before you know.

Scamming the Tenant:

You find a property that seems great and the landlord returns your email with some explanation as to why they cannot show you the property.  They assure you that your application is accepted and they will Fedex you the key once you send them the deposits.  They can seem very believable, even getting free (hotmail, yahoo, etc.) emails that match the real property owners name on the tax records.  They seem like great landlords and are willing to accept your 100 lb pet pit bull, 400 credit score or 10 kids.  They might ask for your personal info to run a credit check, etc.

Signs of the Scam

  • Poor grammar and flowery, unnatural language
  • Out of country phone number (although with Google voice, they are getting around that now)
  • Inability to meet in person
  • Sense of urgency
  • Stories don’t quite add up
  • Seems to good to be true
  • 3rd party “friends”, “agents”, etc. who need to be involved in the deal
  • They email you at odd hours
  • They are on a “mission”, have a job that takes them out of the country for months on end, etc.

How to Detect or Avoid Scammers

The best way is to work with a licensed Realtor (shameless plug here) as they can properly screen incoming tenants and the scammers target direct landlords, not those represented by Realtors.  If you are a renter, there is no cost to use our services and we know the games the scammers play, any property we show you will be with a legitimate owner.  If  you are in the rental market DIY, then check any phone numbers to see if the area code is from Nigeria, this is often the seat of many of these scams, or if the area code doesn’t match up to what they are telling you.  Google their name, or anything else (even a section of their email), you’d be surprised how often they will reuse the same name and email over and over.

Lesson of the Day – “if it’s too good to be true, it normally is”

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