It has come to our attention that scammers are using Craiglist and listing sites like Trulia.com to target potential renters and homebuyers! As legitimate Realtors, we’re urging you to practice caution when approaching these advertisers. Never give out any personal information when you inquire about the property. Especially, if you’ve seen rental ads with rental rates that are too good to be true, you’re right to be skeptical.
Scammers are taking photographs and MLS information from Real Estate sites and posting them to Craigslist. They’re usually rental or sales listings but posted at a lower rate to make potential renters / buyers think they’re getting a great deal.
In fact, the scheme is so elaborate that the scammers tell people to visit the property but not to go inside – and that if they see a Realtor sign, to ignore it. This is explained away by saying that they are cutting out the middleman and renting it directly, or that they used a Realtor and have stopped but forgot to remove the sign.
Signs to watch out for:
- The advertiser usually claims to be the owner
- They say they’ve either relocated or are traveling internationally and can’t show you the property, nor provide you with a phone number.
- Say they work for a noble organization, such as the American Red Cross or even claim to be a Doctor, Pastor, or some other trustworthy profession
- They tell you they can’t give you the keys to the home until you send them the deposit
- Connections with Africa are usually mentioned – with an international phone number.
- The emails are usually plagued with spelling mistakes, bad punctuation and so on…
- Review a full list of rental scams and the various ways they try to get your attention – http://rentalscams.org/
It is always advisable that you cross reference rental properties on real estate sites. We suggest is to cross check the property address on a site like Realtor.com, Zillow.com or Trulia.com (sometimes there are double listings, the legitimate one and the fake – when in doubt, call the listing agent).
This scam is not just affecting renters but is also a heightened issue for Realtors and homeowners nationwide. We strongly recommend that homeowners create a Google Alert for the address and monitor any stray posts that seem odd. Craigslist allows you to ‘flag’ posts to remove listings.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not, under any circumstances, send a deposit check to anybody unless you have taken the steps to verify their legitimacy! You should always be able to see a home before putting down a deposit.
This is a national problem, with Realtors facing countless notifications and inquiries in every State. Until more solid control practices are in place, we’re depending on you, the public, to do your due diligence and spread the word, warning friends and family about the scam.