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 www.Trulia.com 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.