How To Avoid Being Scammed On Craigslist
by Breanna Fuss, Reporter
February 20, 2013 5:29 PM
When finding a new place to live, with the nerves and stress, also comes excitement of new beginnings and a new place to call home. But there is an alarming trend that has realtors saying if it seems to good to be true it probably is.
“The scammers will take pictures I have of a building that I have for rent for say $1,800 and they will put it out on a different ad for say $1,100,” said Joann Messersmith, Legacy Real Estate.
Messersmith said each week she finds three to four housing scams on Craigslist.
“If you want to rent a house you do have to move quickly, and get a deposit on it. But it’s just a prime scenario for people to become a victim of a scam,” Messersmith said.
She also said she has received numerous calls from people asking why there are numerous ads for the same home or apartment her company is renting out. And she said although some aren’t wiling to admit it, she knows a few of those callers may have fallen victim to some of the scenarios scammers are using.
Here is how one scam works. The renter and the rentee meet at a house. The renter says regrettably they cannot go into the home because he or she has forgotten the keys and they cannot go and get them because they have numerous other appointments that day. Then they ask for the deposit. And for those who have given hundreds of dollars to rent a home said the next day, the cell phone is disconnected and the email addresses no longer exist.
The other scenario plays on your heartstrings.
“(Scammers said) well I can’t show this to you in person I am a missionary, and I'm not here in the country,” explained Messersmith. “But if you could just send me this money order, or cashier check, for $500 deposit, I can mail you this other information and I can get you the key.”
So how do you keep yourself safe? Officer Jim Larson who works with a program called ‘Crime Free Multi-Housing’ explains.
“The problem with Craigslist or any internet sales is there is no governing body on what is put on it as supposedly what is fact,” Larson said.
Larson said people should pay attention to the little details on those ads.
“Grammar, its amazing how many people misspell words,” said Larson. “Like if it is a legitimate apartment building, they aren’t going to misspell words.”
He also said that warning on the bottom of Craigslist that states ‘don’t wire money’ is there for a reason.
“If you’re going to send money to somebody for something, realize you may not get that object and you may be wasting your money,” said Larson.
And Larson warns if you do fall victim to a scam, there is only so much the police department can do.
“We do what we are able to do, but unfortunately again, because we don’t know who the suspect is, we aren't able to trace them,” said Larson.
Messersmith said it’s a good idea to call the county register of deeds if you feel a bit uneasy about something. She said they could tell you who actually owns the property and who that rent money will go to. If that information doesn’t match up with who the renter said owns the property, you could have a problem.
Another way to protect yourself is to actually drive by the home during different times of the day. That way you can be sure it’s actually vacant and for rent.
You can see more tips on how to keep yourself save at Legacy Real Estate’s website