Craigslist Rent Scam In Southern California

Real Estate Agent with North Orange County CA Real Estate Specialists BRE# 01277795

RENTAL PROPERTY SCAM ON CRAIGSLISTThe word scam written in red on the computer keyboard

Renters beware! There's a big rental property scam on Craigslist right now, and the thieves are getting potential tenants to send them thousands of dollars for a bogus lease.

I've received an exorbitant amount of calls for rental units this year, but I've noticed an alarming trend over the past several weeks. Many of these calls are from concerned, potential renters who have seen a property listed on my website, via the MLS, and have seen the same property listed for lease on Craigslist, for much less money. So far I've received calls regarding this Craigslist rental scam for both homes and condos for rent in Orange County, Riverside County, Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County. And, although this seems to be far reaching, the callers all have a similar story to tell.


  • The person posting the bogus ad for a rental unit on Craigslist claims to be the owner.
  • The property they're pretending to rent is actually listed on the MLS, and is available for lease, but at a higher monthly rate than what the scammer is advertising. I've checked out several lease listings, and they have been between $300 to $700 more on the MLS than what the scammer lists the property for on Craigslist.
  • The scammer uses the actual name of the property owner, and has clearly done their homework, in an effort to make this Craigslist rent scam look legitimate.
  • When questioned regarding the difference in price shown on the MLS and Craigslist, the so called "owner" claims that he or she has decided not to use an agent to procure a tenant because the real estate fees are too high.
  • The Craigslist rent scammer claims that he (or she) can afford to lease their property for less money, by circumventing a real estate agent.
  • Often the Craigslist rent scammer tells potential tenants that he has taken a job in another state or country, even claiming, at times, to be a pastor! This is the excuse given, to explain why they're unable to meet in person.
  • You will be asked to send the money to the Craigslist rent scammer via Paypal, by check, money order or cashier's check.


DO NOT ever send money to someone that you haven't met, especially someone that refuses to meet you at the rental property, and if you see this type of rent scam on Craigslist, please report it immediately. There is a button that you can click on, in the ad, to easily notify Craigslist of any ad that looks suspicious or appears to be a scam, so that they can investigate further and rid their site of these criminals.




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Jim Patton
Century 21 M&M - 209-404-0816 - Turlock, CA
Realtor - Stanislaus & Merced county Realtor.

This is happening here in Northern Ca too Gina.  I have gotten calls on some of my listings from people looking for a rental.  You are correct about the scammers doing their homework, they had the name of my seller in thier email address.   People have to be careful when looking for a rental on craigslist. 

Jul 19, 2012 04:39 PM #1
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Gina - I've seen this happen on my listings that are for sale at ridiculous prices.  One was sending people around back to look inside though the property wasn't vacant.

Jul 19, 2012 04:57 PM #2
Pamela Seley
West Coast Realty Division - Murrieta, CA
Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA

Gina, I've seen this too in my area. I called both listing agents from the MLS to let them know their short sale listings were advertised for rent on craigslist. They couldn't believe it. Also, another scam I'm seeing is lease/option purchase for properties that are incorrectly advertised. You're right that any would be renter NEVER send money to someone they  haven't met.

After I told the listing agents, I noticed the ads on craigslist had been removed.  Thanks for your warning!

Jul 19, 2012 05:38 PM #3
Shanna Day Team Leader AZ & UT - Call 480-415-7616
Keller Williams Realty EV (AZ) & Keller Williams SLC (UT) - Mesa, AZ
Top 1% Of 155,000+ KW Agents Worldwide!

I've heard about it in AZ too.   I've also heard about people leasing vacant short sale properties out and then when the short sale moves along through the process, there is a tenant in place with a bogus lease agreement & of course the landlord who collected the first month's rent & security deposits is no where to be found! 

Jul 19, 2012 06:06 PM #4
Wallace S. Gibson, CPM
Gibson Management Group, Ltd. - Charlottesville, VA

Flagging IS NOT ENOUGH * reporting DIRECTLY to Craigslist through * ABOUT * CONTACT US * 4th button REPORT SPAM or SCAM * with a link to the ad in the *Describe the Issue

Jul 19, 2012 07:53 PM #5
David Popoff
DMK Real Estate - Darien, CT
RealtorĀ®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct

yup, heard about this, never send money and report to Craigslist they are good about it.

Jul 19, 2012 08:23 PM #6
Momentum Realty
North Orange County CA Real Estate Specialists - Yorba Linda, CA
Orange County CA Real Estate Agent

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for reading and commenting on my post. I had no idea that this was so widespread. I just heard from another caller, and she actually took the time to report it to the FBI, so maybe they can put a stop to this scumbag!!

Thanks for the advice Wallace!

I hope you all have a wonderful and productive weekend,


Jul 20, 2012 02:34 AM #7
Sidney Kutchuk - Realty Works Temecula Kutchuk - Realty Works Temecula
Realty Works Temecula - Temecula, CA
Realty Works Temecula

Hi Gina:  It's happening with purchases of all different types of items also.  No consumer should ever give upfront money for anything!!!

Jul 24, 2012 08:07 AM #8
Momentum Realty
North Orange County CA Real Estate Specialists - Yorba Linda, CA
Orange County CA Real Estate Agent

Hi Jane,

Yes, I'm hearing that more and more. I'm also getting calls almost daily, from buyers and renters that have found these bogus listings on Craigslist, and now on Trulia as well.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


Jul 25, 2012 10:08 AM #9
Mary Jo

Hello Gina,

Thank you for posting this report.  Your listing at 1006 Portola Ave. in Torrance, CA is part of the Craigslist scam.  I just got an email back from someone claiming to be the owner, Ben Hart,  doing missionary work in Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia.  I reported it on Craigslist.


Mary Jo

Jul 26, 2012 08:32 AM #10
Momentum Realty
North Orange County CA Real Estate Specialists - Yorba Linda, CA
Orange County CA Real Estate Agent

Hi Mary Jo,

Thank you, it's actually not my listing, but I do appreciate you taking the time to write to me and am SO glad to hear that you reported it! Yes, that's his M.O., he's telling everyone the same thing and I hope they catch him soon!

Have a wonderful weekend and blessings to you as well,


Jul 26, 2012 11:11 AM #11
Evelyn Garcia
Shannon L Bell in San Diego/Las Vegas is running a scam for a North Park rental in San Diego! Beware!
Dec 05, 2013 08:54 AM #12
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