Jeremy and I have been getting a lot of questions about Craigslist and what some of the red flags are when looking at homes on the site. Unfortunately, there are many ways these scammers are trying to take your money and run. Be very wary of ads where the person who listed them is unable to speak with you over the phone for whatever reason. Many times, these con artists will come up with creative stories of being sent away to the military, overseas on an oceanography trip with their son–we’ve heard them all!
Ask a lot of questions and do whatever you can to speak with a live person. The biggest red flag we’ve seen is being asked to wire money to someone from Craigslist. NEVER wire any money to these unavailable people because you never know who is lurking behind the computer screen!
Below is an article about a Craigslist rental scam from last year along with some good tips on what to look for when browsing Craigslist for homes, rentals, or anything for that matter.
If you need help looking for a home whether for sale or rent, please feel free to call or email us for assistance. We are licensed, full-time professional Port St Lucie Realtors (and creators of this informational blog) Jeremy Glass & Elyse Wagner of RE/MAX Masterpiece Realty. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 772-249-9485.
Renters Beware: Fraudsters Still Lurking on Craigslist
And it’s not just renters getting swindled — landlords appear at risk, too. In another recent incident, Georgia resident Robert Fulton claimed that he got scammed out of $2,200 by a pair of prospective renters after he’d posted an ad on Craigslist to lease out his empty basement.
The pair reportedly sent him a $3,500 check as an advance on the rent, then asked him for a favor. Fulton claims that they requested he send the $2,200 they had “overpaid” him to an acquaintance of theirs to help “cover moving expenses.” Though Fulton says that he had his suspicions, he went through with the transaction as the first check appeared to have cleared.
But it hadn’t.
“A couple weeks later I got an email from the bank saying the check was no good,” Fulton told WSB-TV. He told the television station that after he’d called the scammers about their ploy, they propositioned him to join them in making counterfeit checks, just like the one they’d allegedly used to rip him off in the first place.
“They said, ‘Why don’t you get involved with us and you can make some money? You can make all your money back,’ ” Fulton said.
But experts are skeptical that such duped consumers will ever see that money again.
An Online Money Trap
“Unfortunately, it’s not likely Fulton will get his $2,200 back,” Janet Hart from the Better Business Bureau told AOL Real Estate. “It’s probably in another country and he doesn’t even know about it. Wire transfers are irretrievable.”
Hart, an expert on consumer fraud, reveals that sadly, Craigslist real estate scams are still happening very frequently. Cashing in on fake advance rent checks, like in Fulton’s case, is one of the “most popular” Craigslist scams, she says, along with selling and renting “fake” homes. (That’s advertising unlisted homes for bargain prices to out-of-town buyers who cannot physically check on the home, and then asking for a “holding fee” to be wire-transferred to an account, like in the Shives’ case.)
How to Protect Yourself
Hart warns consumers that diligence is key. You can help safeguard yourself from these scams by avoiding any wire transfers, unless it is to or from a large and reputable organization. Also, if someone’s offering you a lot more money than you’re asking for in a simple real estate transaction, just don’t take it.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Hart advises.
AOL Daily Finance also advises that if you are renting a place online and cannot physically see the place for any reason, at the very least you should Google the home’s address and do some online research on the property before forking over any money. If the home shows up as a “for sale” home, there could be a problem.
“You can never be too careful,” Hart adds. “Ask around and do your research before any online transaction, especially with things involving a lot of money like houses and cars.”