June 2, 2010
A growing online scam is now luring Craigslist users with listings that are too good to be true. The scam involves unreal rental deals. A potential renter thinks they're getting a bargain on a great property. While the property is legitimate, the person who says he's the landlord is not.
KAKE News spoke with a woman who responded to a Craigslist ad that ended up being a scam, who did not want her name released. She is looking for a rental for her sister. She thought she found the perfect place on Craigslist, but soon realized the listing was far from perfect.
"I didn't like the very first email that we got back. Something just didn't ring true," said the woman.
Someone who said they were the homeowner responded to her, saying he had to be in West Africa for a business deal. The email says he knows the rent is well below market price, but is not after making a lot of money from tenants.
"The more [correspondence] we got, we knew that it could not be the owner of the home," said the woman receiving the e-mails.
She was right. The person sending the emails isn't the homeowner. The actual homeowner is selling the house, not putting it up for rent. The real estate agent helping sell the property says this is far from the first time he's seen this exact same scam.
"They're advertising a house for rent, that is not for rent at all, it's for sale," said Realtor Mike Grbic.
Grbic says it's been happening to his listings, and others across the country for months. The alleged scammer has been stealing information and pictures off legitimate online listings, and posting them as rentals on Craigslist.
"People are asking for, usually some money up front. [They tell people to] send us a check, we'll mail you the keys," said Grbic.
But when people send money, they get nothing in return. The woman KAKE News spoke with who responded to the ad says she's incredibly grateful it didn't happen to her.
"It would be sickening, it would absolutely be heartbreaking," she said.
Realtors say in order to avoid similar scams, people should meet potential landlords in person before giving them personal information or a deposit.