Beware of Rental Fraud on Craigslist or Trulia

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Silicon Valley Cal BRE# 01358433



An interesting thing has been happening to my listings.  Renters were calling and asking if I was renting my properties which I listed For Sale.   I don’t do property management, but I kept getting calls.   This happened once early last year, then again during the summer and it happened once again this month. I don’t know why I am so lucky, but what is happening is someone is taking information and photographs from my listings and re-posting them as Rental properties in Craigslist.  


They post rental prices which are substantially less than what is typical of the area and ask people to email them with questions.  They never use a phone number.   


The first two were posted by people whose primary language was obviously not English.   They claimed to be professionals here in Silicon Valley, who are now returning to their native country but did not have the time to sell their lovely homes, so they decided to rent  out their home.  


They claim to be back in their home country (both times Nigeria), so they are unable to show the property.  They ask the prospective renters to look through the window and if they like what they saw, to contact them via email to discuss the details of rental terms.


The one problem was, when the prospective renters went to check out the “rental property”, they saw my sign and ended up calling me: an unforeseen monkey wrench thrown into their plan.  Both times the prospects called me, so I was able to locate the ads and had them removed.  


This past week, this scam took a different route.  This time, the ad showed up on as a rental property.  They lifted the photos and description from my own listing from Trulia.  What got me boiling was that 1) they had the gumption to claim this as their own property, when it was already listed for sale on the same website; and 2) they claimed to be in the military and were relocating to Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, causing them to vacate their home for three years.  This was yet another scam using the good name of our military folks to defraud others.         


The prospective victim called me because the listing showed up as For Sale and the price was so low.  She forwarded the email correspondence to me and it was written by someone who obviously spoke English and was inviting further correspondences and requesting a security deposit and first month of rent.  I contacted Trulia and had them take down the fake Rental Listing.  


If this has happened to me three times, I am sure this is happening numerous times to other agents and prospective renters as well.   Who knows how many people got scammed out of their deposits and first month’s rent.  


Renters, please be careful and if a property’s rent is substantially less than the going rate in the area, something is wrong.   If there is a For Sale sign on the property, call the agent whose number appears on the sign. 


Realtors, if you start getting weird rental calls, check craigslist to see if your property is being used to perpetrate a fraud and ruin your good reputation.   



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Sameer Punjani - Fairfield, CA

Well, you know what they say..if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

I wish people would stop and think nobody is stupid to give away stuff, especially in this market.

Great post though.

Feb 25, 2011 12:53 PM #1
Wallace S. Gibson, CPM
Gibson Management Group, Ltd. - Charlottesville, VA

Easy to stop * WATERMARK PHOTOS!!!!


Feb 25, 2011 01:09 PM #2
Rick Obst
Eugene, OR

I've come across this happening once, and I post 50 - 75 times a day to craigslist.  If it's too good to be true - beware.  Wallace, thank you for the watermark link.

Feb 25, 2011 01:33 PM #3
Steve Mun
Keller Williams Silicon Valley - Santa Clara, CA
Silicon Valley Realtor

Yes guys, Renters beware is the phrase of the day, I think.  The rental rates were like 30%-50% below market rate, so it triggered a lot of calls to me.


I like the idea of watermarking.   Thanks Wallace.  

Feb 26, 2011 06:26 AM #4
Rudy Bachraty
Director, Communications & Partner Strategies, WellcomeMat - Fort Collins, CO

Hi Steve,

Sorry you had to experience this and thank you for sharing this with us. If you or anyone else see's someone doing something like this on Trulia, please contact as you have so we can address it.

We wrote a post on scams which could help identify scams:


Rudy from Trulia

Feb 28, 2011 03:54 AM #5
Kathie Burby
Coldwell Banker Mother Lode Real Estate - Sonora, CA
REALTOR, SFR, Tuolumne County Real Estate Guide

Steve - thanks for bringing this scam to light! People really do need to use common sense when responding to any offers on the internet. I also like the idea of the watermark for the photos. I will check it out.

Oct 17, 2011 10:50 AM #6

This is occurring right now on Hotpads, for a aproperty in Warren, mi 48091.  They sent me an email and claimed that they had to go to work in Sahara, Africa, as was unable to show the property.  So I decided to go and look at the house, and the realitor guy was there showing it and had no idea what I was talking about.  I kinda wonder if he's in on it too.  The street name is Patricia and the owners fake name is Robyn Camisa.  And if the realitor is in on it, some foreign people were there ready and willing to pay cash for the house, more than what it's worth, so I hope nobody gets scammed.  Can somebody look into this property and get it removed?

Nov 06, 2011 11:41 AM #7

Don't listen to Rudy @ Trulia! I've seen his response on a number of blogs about Trulia being a scam, as if he was concerned about fixing the problem, but it seems to be a current reoccurring issue. It is now May 2012 3 months after Rudy's post on this site and I'm writing to express discontent with the Trulia "real-estate" site. After finding a home for rent on their website that was listed at a price low enough to catch anyone who's looking attention, but not low enough to call BS. We called the number listed on Trulia's site only to be told that in order for us to find out anything about the home we needed to pay a $40 dollar fee first?!?! After checking with an appraiser friend, this home was never put on the market for rent or for sale!!This website is a scam! Any realtor or owner who has the gall to post their listing on this site is just feeding the misinformation fraud from these types of sites. Thanks for wasting our time Rudy, if your site is going to have so many errors I suggest taking it down for the sake of the rental/buying community. Thanks for nothing!

May 02, 2012 06:49 AM #8
John Anello, Stamford Area Electrician
Safe and Sound Electric LLC - Greenwich, CT
Call Safe and Sound Electric at 203-536-0021

If I see an email listed in a Craigslist ad, with no other contact info, I enter that contact info in to Google to see if the same person posted similar ads in multiple cities.  Usually, it is a scam.

Apr 14, 2014 07:27 AM #9
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Steve Mun

Silicon Valley Realtor
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