Craigslist Rental Scams

Scam Check, http://www.flickr.com/photos/cafemama/3638263765/Welcome Back Readers!  Thanks for stopping by, I wanted to pass on a little info about a scam that has been happening across the internet, as always if something sounds to good to be true it probably is.

If you think Nigerian Bankers are the only ones out there scamming people, I have news of a new (well not new but it’s becoming more widely used) scam involving craigslist and real estate rentals. (read on to find out more)

The scam is a variation on two basic themes and both Renters and Landlords are at risk.  Let’s look at the Renter side first.  According to a recent FBI report (yes, that FBI) here is how the scam works:

(image courtesy of Flickr)

“Homeowners list their homes for sale with real estate agents, who list the homes for sale in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and also with public search websites, which allow individuals to query homes for sale via the Internet. Scammers find homes listed for sale on these public search sites, copy the pictures and listings verbatim, and then post the information onto Craigslist under available housing rentals, without the consent or knowledge of Craigslist, who has been notified.

After the posting is listed, unsuspecting individuals contact the poster, who is a Scammer, for more information on the “rental.” The Nigerian scammer will state that they had to leave the country very quickly to do missionary or contract work in Africa and were unable to rent their house before leaving, therefore they have to take care of this remotely. The “homeowner” sends the prospective renter an application and tells them to send them first and last month’s rent to the Nigerian scammer via Western Union. The prospective renter is further told if they “qualify,” they will send them the keys for their house. Once the money is wired to the scammer, they show up at the house, see the home is actually for sale, are unable to access the property, and their money is gone.”

So, sounds a bit shady right off the bat but it is plausible I guess and people are being taken by it.  Let’s look at the other side of the coin, the Landlord scam:

“The Landlord scam involves renters sending fake cashier’s checks and money orders. The landlord is contacted by a prospective renter who is out of the area and needs to secure a property quickly for their move.  They will put up a deposit on the property sight unseen.  They send the landlord a deposit to “hold” the property for them until they come to town in a week or two. 

The landlord receives the money, deposits it, and then “something” happens to blow up the deal (their job transfer doesn’t go through, they all of the sudden have a “sick family” member, etc) and the “renter” asks for a refund of their deposit.  It is not until the landlord has refunded the money do they find out that the cashier’s check was a fake and they are on the hook to return the money to the bank for their own “bounced” check.  The scam artist is long gone before the landlord finds this out.”

Again, sounds shady but plausible and so people are falling for this.  So, how do you protect yourself? 

Well, the most obvious solution is not to take money from anyone you haven’t seen in person.   I also would not recommend taking anyone seriously who is renting or attempting to rent a property from a remote location.  Sending money Western Union should be a big red flag too.  I would also wait 30-45 days before refunding money to anyone who has sent you money from afar, which should be enough time for your financial institution to determine a check is fraudulent.  Finally, keep copies of all relevant emails and phone numbers, these notes will help you when you need to report your issue to the authorities.

As always, I’d like you to be part of the conversation, so if you like what you read here please comment, forward this post to your friends and subscribe! 

If you have questions, need real estate advice or want to buy or sell a home, you can call or text me at 717-371-0557, email me at Jason@JasonsHomes.com or contact me at the office at 717-490-8999!

Your Friend in Real Estate,Lancaster PA Homes for Sale, Jason Burkholder

Jason Burkholder

Weichert, Realtors – Engle & Hambright

Search for Lancaster County Homes for sale at www.JasonsHomes.com by clicking here!