Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage Blog

Craigslist Rental Scams

How they work, red flags, and scam prevention.
Posted: September 26, 2018 by Honor Rudd

(adapted from an article in The Mortgage Reports published March 6, 2018)
How it works
  • The scammer copies and pastes information from a legitimate rental ad, and then offers a price that’s literally “too good to be true.”
  • If you respond to the fake ad, the scammer may invite you to drive by the property to view the exterior. What they will not do is give you a tour of the interior. That’s because they are “on vacation” or otherwise unavailable to show the place.
  • If you decide to move forward, the con artist will ask you to wire the first month’s rent and a security deposit via Western Union, PayPal or even iTunes.
  • Once that happens, kiss your money goodbye.
  • Some victims don’t even realize they’ve been conned until they show up with a moving van and discover that someone else is already living in the unit.

Red flags
  • You don’t get a tour of the unit’s interior by the landlord, broker or building manager.
  • The “owner” insists on payment in advance and wants the funds sent by wire transfer.
  • Also, the listing details may be vague or not match up with the neighborhood or building. (For example, the ad might mention a large swimming pool in a neighborhood with tiny lots.)
  • A dead giveaway is when listing photos have MLS watermarks. This indicates that whoever posted the ad doesn’t have the original photos and, therefore, probably doesn’t own the property.
  • Perform a reverse image scan of the photos. You can right-click the images and select “Search Google for image” to see if the pictures have been used elsewhere.

Prevention Tips
  • Legitimate landlords will arrange a tour of the interior. And they will usually accept a personal check, cashier’s check or money order for the first month’s rent and security.
  • Never send advanced payment! Money shouldn’t change hands until a lease is signed.

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