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.