Beware the dreaded Craigslist rental scam when selling your home

Most folks don’t sell a home very often, so may not be aware of a Craigslist scam that has become very prevalent by using your marketing photos and descriptions to try to fool potential renters into making a deposit. The scam goes like this:

  1. The scammer finds your home for sale online on any one of hundreds of site. They copy your photos and marketing description.online fraud
  2. Scammer posts a Craigslist ad using your address and photos, saying that the home is for rent, usually at an eye-popping, unbelievably low rent.
  3. Scammer says to contact them via email, claims they are out of the country, and want you to fill out an application and send them a deposit and first month’s rent.
  4. Renter believes what they are being told and sends their rental deposit to the out-of-country contact, who takes the money and is never heard from again.

I’ve even heard of this being carried a step further, with a scammer actually meeting someone at the property to collect a deposit, but obviously that is a far riskier scam to involve a local person who can be identified and caught by police. Most of them simply try to get you to send money overseas. I just responded to one, pretending I was a renter, and got the following response.

Thanks for your email and interest in renting my house..I am John Rasmussen  the owner of the house you are making inquiry of…Actually I resided in the house with my family, my wife and my only daughter before and presently we have moved out due to my transfer from my work now in Warsaw,Poland. Presently my house is still available for rent, (rent already includes utilities).More so Now, i am currently in the (West Africa) for an international Christian follower’s crusade..Pls i want you to note that i spent a lot on my property that i want to give to you for rent,so i will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this house and want you to treat it as your own, It is not the money that is the main problem but i want you to keep it tidy all the time so that i will be glad to see it neat when i come for a check up.I also want you to let me have trust in you as i always stand on my word. Me and my wife bought the house when we got married. When we left the state I had a thought of selling the house so I have to look for an agent, after getting one, we got a deal but later my wife advised against that. I reasoned with her and accepted her advise. So I contacted the agent back and requested for my keys and documents. Later we decided to  have the house rent out, we would have give the same agent this job also but the truth of the matter is that the agent would want to handle it professionally and the occupant may not be able to reason along with him later. If you notice, you will discovered that the price we are offering is far below standard price, this is enough for you to know that we are not after the rental fee but the  absolute care for the property. The house include the utilities like Heat, A/C in wall/window, Hydro, cable, Garbage Disposal, Fireplace , Fridge, stove, Dishwasher, Dryer, Breakfast Bar, Dining Table and Sofa Set,Refrigerator,Canopied deck overlooking nature.,internet access e.t.c. because of this reason and more we need a responsible person  that can take very good care of it as we are not after the money , but want it to be clean and for you to take it as if it were yours.

The rent is: $800
Security Deposit: $600
For this 3Bedroom Home.
Pets Allowed:Dogs and Cats.
Available :Available Now for move in.

SO IF YOU ARE REALLY INTERESTED I WILL WANT YOU TO FILL THE RENT APPLICATION FORM BELOW.

RENT APPLICATION FORM.
FIRST NAME:__________?
MIDDLE NAME:__________?
LAST NAME:__________?
PROFESSION:__________?
PHONE:
(CELL)PHONE__________?
(WORK)PHONE__________?
(HOME)PHONE__________?
KIDS_____ (YES/NO), HOW MANY________
PRESENT ADDRESS: _____________________
CITY: _______________
STATE:______________
ZIP CODE: ____________
HOW LONG? ___________IF RENTING
WHY ARE YOU LEAVING__________?
IF THIS HOUSE IS BEING GIVEN TO YOU,
HOW LONG DO YOU INTEND STAYING? ____________?
WHEN DO YOU INTEND MOVING IN?______________?
IF YOU HAVE A PET,
NAME OF PET: _____________?
KIND OF PETS: _____________?
HABITS
DO YOU SMOKE ______________ ?
DO YOU DRINK ______________?
DO YOU WORK LATE NIGHT?____?

Looking forward to hearing from you with all this details so that i can have it in my file in case of issuing the receipt for you and contacting you…Await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the document and the keys to you,please we are giving you all this based on trust and again i will want you to stick to your words,you know that we have not seen yet and only putting everything into Gods hands,so please do not let us down in this our property and God bless you more as you do this…The house is available for rent at the moment so you are free to move in as soon as you wish to. Feel free to get back to me for more information and arrangements on how to get the keys and other necessary documents delivered to you. The house will be available for rent for a period of 5 years so you have a choice of deciding how long you intend staying there…

How to avoid these Craigslist scams

Selling your home does involve publicizing it broadly online. A home for sale without pictures and a description online is a home that is not going to sell in today’s marketplace. The scammer’s ability to find a picture or description has little to do with whether you post your home on Craigslist or not, as there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of sites where your home listing will appear.

As a seller, you and your agent must remain diligent. If the home is listed for sale, many rental inquiries will actually be directed toward the legitimate agent. When such an ad is detected, use the tools on Craigslist to flag the post, and visit the Craigslist page about scams for various ways to report it. You can usually get the ad removed quickly.

As a renter, mostly you need to use common sense when renting a home.

  1. If the rent looks too good to be true on Craigslist, it is. No one is going to rent a luxury home selling for $900k for $800/month.
  2. If the landlord cannot meet you in person to take the application and show you the home in person, be wary. There are legitimate out-of-country owners, but they should be able to have someone local show you the home and take your application. That local representative should be easily contacted and identified in some reputable way, and make sure that you have real contact information for them. A local representative who meets you at the home, but does not have keys to get inside is another red flag. There is no scenario where you should make application or deposits on a Craigslist rental without seeing the interior of the home or apartment.
  3. Overseas landlord requests a wire payment or Western Union deposit. Common countries include Nigeria, Romania, UK, Ukraine, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, but it could be anywhere. Once you wire money, it is gone, so be cautious and make sure you are not sending money before actually ensuring that the rental is legit.
  4. If you find that the home advertised for rent is also listed for sale, call the local real estate agent to inquire about the rental. The scam will be revealed quickly.
  • Mschaffer

    It is extremely important for renters to check into the
    landlord and property before signing a lease. 
    I run a service, CheckYourLandlord.com, gives renters the ability to
    easily find out exactly who the owner of record of a property is, find out what
    mortgage and other liens are on the property and if there are any defaults, and
    also learn about past bankruptcies and civil and criminal judgments against the
    landlord.  Too many renters don’t think
    it is important to research the landlord, but a lease is a large financial
    commitment that shouldn’t be entered into lightly.

  • Yes, its very important to for the renters to check the property to avoid this rental scam.

  • Yes, it is absolutely right, you should check first all the details for you to avoid rental scam..Thanks for sharing this information.

  • Seattle Homes

    Wow.  That is amazing that people will come up with such outrageous ways to cheat people out of money.  I haven’t run into that with any Seattle homes, but I know that one way I identify false emails/ads/etc is to look at the grammar.  Many times it won’t make sense in regular speaking English, that is always a warning sign. 

  • Sportychick16

    He did the same thing with me and got to researching online and found his scam pple are outrageous these days

  • Spatter4

    I was excited when he responded back and I saw that someone was actually selling the house at a nice price. Then I realized that the email was written in pretty bad English and that he would not be here for me to meet and see the place. Thanks for writing this! Here is the email that I received. Im assuming that the name he used was stolen or a past unlucky renter.
    Hello,God bless you  for your mail and inquiries about my house. The house is still available for rent and we are looking for a responsible person/family to occupy and maintain the house. My wife and i just moved to West Africa for a program called FAMILY LIFE AND HIV EDUCATION AND THE HIV PREVENTION FOR RURAL YOUTH PROGRAM,and death rate in west Africa, the program is taking place in three major countries in Asian, Africa, UK . We will be away for 2 to 5 years and more that is why I have made up my mind to put up my house for rent to whom ever that will take good care of it. because whatever your hand find to do, do it well.ECCLESIASTICS 9 VS 10.THE LORD WILL BE YOUR STRENGTH AND YOUR PROVIDER,because it pays to help those that are in need so that the good God will help us too.that is why i have decide to help those that are needs help i love doing that.FEATURES : Laundry, Electric Range, Electric Heat, Master Bedroom, Playground, Car Park.AMENITIES: Air Conditioning, Patio/Party Deck, Cable TV, Ceiling Fans, 24 hours Internet service, Dishwasher, Fire-pit, Garbage Disposal, Microwave, security alarm, Pets Friendly, Refrigerator, Washer / Dryer. HERE IS SOME PICTURES OF OUR PROPERTYRental price: $1200 per month and security Deposit is $800(Security Deposit is Refundable) Utilities included in monthly rent. Fill out the rental application if you are interested.  RENT APPLICATION FORM TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF.FIRST NAME:__________?MIDDLE NAME:__________?LAST NAME:__________?SEX:__________?DATE OF BIRTH:_________?PROFESSION:__________?PHONE:(CELL)PHONE__________?(WORK)PHONE__________?(HOME)PHONE__________?WHICHNUMBER IS THE BEST TO CALL YOU ON__________?MARITAL STATUS:__________?KIDS _____ (YES/NO), HOW MANY ________PRESENT ADDRESS: _____________________CITY: _______________STATE:______________ZIP CODE: ____________HOW LONG? ___________IF RENTINGWHY ARE YOU LEAVING__________?IF THIS HOUSE IS BEING GIVEN TO YOU,HOW LONG DO YOU INTEND STAYING? ____________?WHEN DO YOU INTEND MOVING IN? ______________?DO YOU AGREE TO PAY THE RENT BEFORE YOU MOVE IN? _____________?IF YOU HAVE A PET,KIND OF PETS: _____________?HABITSDO YOU SMOKE ______________ ?DO YOU DRINK ______________?DO YOU WORK LATE NIGHT? ____?.GOD BLESS YOU.Pets Welcome.Below is the address to the house:…….get back to me so i can know how serious you are, so we can finalize every thing out with the rent application form filled out. I will await reading an email from you soonest for further discussion and arrangements.Here is my contact phone number on which you can be able to reach me any day anytime.            +2348057771324       or 0112348057771324 Regards.

  • Jwgauthier522

    Thank you so much for posting this ad. I am a burn victim and I have been in and out of the hospital. I have had 53 procedures. I have just saved my left leg from amputation and now have the chance to start over. I was so excited to have found something I could afford to live in, seeing my disability payment checks are so small. I was about to send my money out today. I just thought I would jump online before running out to do so. I’m glad I did or I would have had only $145.- to survive for the rest of the month to live on. I’m wicked bummed out I really don’t have a place to live now or any family to turn to seeing it was my mum & dad who burnt me to start with. One thing I dislike about people is there greed.

  • peanut

    I have gotten that exact message, except the name was Nancy E. Breedlove and the rent was 550

  • Maxi

    I kind of figured this was a scam…looking at the house and how much they wanted for it.  I should go back and call the number on the for rent sign and tell the rightful owners there house is being scammed.  Thank you, this is the exact e-mail I got with different names and prices.

  • Mandilance11

    So irritating!! Was ready to send my info and something made me google ‘international Chistian follower’s crusade’ and found out it was a scam. I thought it had to be to good to be true when the craigslist listing was there for about an hr. I will be driving by the house and call the number listed. I googled the address that was given and it pulled the house up on a few differents web sites as a for sale home! Names and numbers seem to be changed with every listing!

  • holly

    I got this exact same e-mail except the name was Matilda M Hahn
    and the rent was a little different. In our area it’s the going rent.
    I did a little more research because the out of the states thing made me question it. This is what I responded with Yes we are still interested, although before we totally agree to anything we would like to take a look at the inside of the house and all of that. I also wanted to let you know that we will keep the house up as if it were our own if we decide to rent it. We live neatly, and take care of our things so that they will last. I would like to ask how exactly we would be able to do a walkthrough before we decide to rent, and how the keys and lease will be handled with your husband and you being out of the states currently? Do you have a friend or relitive in the area who will handle this for you? Because of the world that we live in we must be wary of scams and the possiblity of that, so I decided to do a bit of research just to be sure. I have a few questions before I complete the rental application, it’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that I don’t trust the world that we live in. You are in fact listed as the owner of the house, which is good. What confuses me is that you said that you decided against selling it yet it is listed for sale on a few websites. Also more confusing is that it lists that your husband and you died recently in a car accident, or people with the same name, appx the same age as what it lists you the owner of this home as. Understandably this leads to me raising a few eyebrows… I was just going to fill out the rental application and explain our situation in more detail so that you could better understand the rental application. But now I will await your responce before I do so…I hope that you understand.The reply I recieved was….My husband advised me not to sale the house again and we should secure home for future purpose since we will be returning back to the state.I don’t want you to start feeling agitated cause my family will never let you down.Kindly drive by and if you’re really interested then fill out the rental application form immediately to enable us proceed on how you will be receiving the keys and documents of my house.——————————–Then I thought to myself well for being missionarys they sure use bad grammer. Also if you found out that someone with your exact name recently died wouldn’t you make mention of it to the person who informed you of that? The home is REALLY something we wanted so I figured I would go look at the craigslist ad again to see if the details match up, and when the ad was no longer listed I decided to google the christian followers revival just to be sure. I’m glad I did because I now know for sure that this is a scam!
    Yes we are still interested, although before we totally agree to anything we would like to take a look at the inside of the house and all of that. I also wanted to let you know that we will keep the house up as if it were our own if we decide to rent it. We live neatly, and take care of our things so that they will last. I would like to ask how exactly we would be able to do a walkthrough before we decide to rent, and how the keys and lease will be handled with your husband and you being out of the states currently? Do you have a friend or relitive in the area who will handle this for you?

    Because of the world that we live in we must be wary of scams and the possiblity of that, so I decided to do a bit of research just to be sure. I have a few questions before I complete the rental application, it’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that I don’t trust the world that we live in. You are in fact listed as the owner of the house, which is good. What confuses me is that you said that you decided against selling it yet it is listed for sale on a few websites. Also more confusing is that it lists that your husband and you died recently in a car accident, or people with the same name, appx the same age as what it lists you the owner of this home as. Understandably this leads to me raising a few eyebrows…

    I was just going to fill out the rental application and explain our situation in more detail so that you could better understand the rental application. But now I will await your responce before I do so…I hope that you understand.
    The reply I recieved was….
    My husband advised me not to sale the house again and we should secure home for future purpose since we will be returning back to the state.I don’t want you to start feeling agitated cause my family will never let you down.Kindly drive by and if you’re really interested then fill out the rental application form immediately to enable us proceed on how you will be receiving the keys and documents of my house.
    ——————————–
    Then I thought to myself well for being missionarys they sure use bad grammer. Also if you found out that someone with your exact name recently died wouldn’t you make mention of it to the person who informed you of that? The home is REALLY something we wanted so I figured I would go look at the craigslist ad again to see if the details match up, and when the ad was no longer listed I decided to google the christian followers revival just to be sure. I’m glad I did because I now know for sure that this is a scam!

  • Aundrea Gadson

    As of right now I was going to send my money to a man and his family and the same things he said to me listed above. He so called stayed in California but wanted me and my husband to western union him the money to an Minnesota address and the house to beautiful to be rented out for 450 its worth 950 and I found the house on Craig list but to think I was sending him the money now hell no I’m a lil mad but I’ll get over it aatleast I still have my money but what’s really weird everything in the above paragraphs he said it and thanks God I was smart enough to Google this up

  • Bluematrix5

    I’ve seen this about 8 times since i started looking for places in new york

  • Hannah

    I also got this exact same scam. He requested i send the transfer over western union BEFORE he sends the keys by mail…sent up red flags…googled “international christian followers crusade” and….here we go! I am playing along hoping to catch him now in the act. He has to give his real name and location to get the transfer and i plan to contact the police department there to see if it’s possible to actually catch this guy! Probably can’t but…it’s worth a shot!

  • queenofhearts219

    Same exact thing only its in st Louis and names are bishop Patricia and David bowman

  • Lesley Bailey

    He is doing this in Evansville Indiana. I haven’t told him I know about the scam so if anyone wants to help me catch him this could be fun.

  • Lesley Bailey
  • Kobear

    Thanks for this. I got the email and for some reason I had a bad feeling about how it was written. I looked up the email address though and nothing came up. And then I googled Christian follower’s crusade and found this. I should just trust my gut instinct more. Thank you.

  • pickle

    I see everyone has done they’re school work but has anyone tried calling these people???? They tell you to call for more information enquiring minds want to know

    • Annoyed 😡

      Yes, I spoke to him on the phone, twice. He used an unknown number and a voice changer. I asked for a number to call him back to hear better. He hung up, then called again. I told him I had to see the place first. He said “okay, I can’t do that, thank you, goodbye.”

      When I dialed the number at first to reach out to the ad, it was a prepaid phone with no answering voicemail.

  • Deirdre Koolhoven

    Mine says his name is Ben Byrd and “Now, i am currently in the (Missouri) for an international Christian follower’s crusade”, “Presently my house is still available for rent for $700 (rent already includes utilities).” But when you call the number (765)326-5247 it says that the GOOGLE SUBSCRIBER can not be reached at this time, please leave a message after the tone.

  • Pissedoffdaddy

    Why the f didn’t I see this sooner!!!!!!!!!!!! Now I’m out $400 cause of this scam mine was the previous owners name everything looked legit. Until they said their lawyer was wanting me to pay all 1600 of it. That’s when I started really doing investigation into everything.

  • Guest

    so what do I do if I find one of these scammers?

  • DamselInDistress

    You know what, I should have followed my first instinct. I didn’t give my birthdate or exact address but I did lend some personal information. Its such a shame these days, you really can’t trust anyone or anything. Bottom line is that I knew better but was sort of hoping that it was a legit response. Well better late than never. Now I’m in my accounts setting up fraud alerts, bleh!

  • Norlain

    I’m from Miami, FL and received this too: I am Kelvin joseph , iam the owner of the house you are making enquiry of, actually i resided in the house with my family. Presently my family and I are in west africa for an International Christian Followers Crusade.

  • K

    I responded to one of these emails with my address and birthdate, now I am scared. Does anything happen after you respond to one of these emails? Please let me know! I am freaking out!

  • S

    I am currently in contact with this so is there a way to bring him to justice?

  • ASHLEY A

    Mine said him and his wife were in KENYA doing missionaries. Well im glad i realized it was a scam… if it looks too good to be true then it most likely is too good to be true. Lesson learned.

  • ccgraves

    Going thru this now, the family is in Georgia with the international Christian followers crusade didn’t fill out the form but did give them my name and number told them I wanted to see the property with their local contact person. Constant emails up to that point, decided to Google international Christian followers crusade and came across this. If you’re first instinct is this is too good, 9 times out of 10 it probably is.

  • rc5862

    Thank you for posting this, I’m in Arizona and replied to one of these ads and they said they were in ohio…….just seemed too good to be true and Googled it and found this post. Thank you for saving me money