Yeow !! I have not heard of this. We need to beware!!!
One of my investment buyers recently purchased a beautiful bank owned home that he intends to rent out. I used to do property management along with being a Realtor. I have since gotten out of the monthly property management business but continue to be a one stop shop for my investors who wish to buy and lease out the homes but intend to manage it themselves. I have been marketing the home for rent on multiple different rental websites as I usually do. One of the websites is Craigslist. I have rented homes out from Craigslist before with great sucess and always ignore the scammer and spam emails.
Before the day was over, I was getting emails from the various websites I had posted on and began to schedule showings for the home (which by the way, I never do alone!) We had set the move-in date for March 1, 2010 so the owner can do minor repairs and cleaning. I also never disclose the property address on any of the websites, only the street name until I can talk with the potential renter over the phone and I have made an appointment to show.
Last night the owner called me asking me if I had posted more than one listing on Craigslist for the same house. I said no, unless I accidently hit the post more than once which I'm positive I didnt do. He said he was on Craigslist to look at the ad I had posted and to look at other homes in the area that were for rent to see the competition and he came across my exact ad, pictures and all. This ad had a different "reply to" name. (not my email address) This ad had the physical address of the property. (something I never disclose) This ad had the rent price changed to reflect a $500 price reduction. This ad had a move-in date set for ASAP. (my ad is set for a March 1st move in date) Right away, I logged on to check it out and sure enough, someone had copied my ad and made changes and added their email address as the contact!
Wow!!! This was a first and the homeowner was extremley worried about this. What are the intentions of this person? To get someone to give him rent money? The wise renter would want to see the home they are renting before they fork over money right? What if the renter is coming in from out of town and just sends money without looking at it. With all the news of scams you would think people would not be this naive but desperate people will do anything. Maybe he tells potential renters no credit check is necassary, just first and last months rent. Now we would have squatters on our hands! Lots of questions went through our minds about what could be his motives even though the locks have been changed. I told the owner I would get back to him in a bit so I can review this. I began to do a search on this persons email address they listed to see what would come up. The email address was a name. First.Last@yahoo.com (i'm using this as an example, his full name was actually plugged in there) Doing a google search, the only thing it pulled up was his craigslist ad!
Before I could do another search, the owner called me and said he recognizes the name! Who is it, I asked him? You would not believe the answer...
It was the previous owner of the home!! He said that name had ranged a bell and he looked at the title records and there his name was. The exact name in the email! I sent him an email asking him to remove his ad as he was not authorized to post such an ad! I also immedialtley flagged his ad as prohibited and sent an email to Craigslist to see what could be done. I dont think they will be able to do nothing more than remove the post. I also sent him an email from another email account that I have, asking to make an appointment to view the home. I wanted to see if he would respond and what he would say. He has not responded yet and I dont know if he will. Maybe he just wanted to drive the emails to him so we wouldnt be able to rent out what he still considers to be "his house".
Folks this could be a new scam on the horizon. We have been used to bitter homeowners trashing the place before moving out but with Cash for Keys as an incentive, that is becoming less apparent in my neck of the woods. They could be keeping tabs on the home to see what will become of it and think of ways to get back at whoever for them losing the home. This prior owner knows the ins and outs of this home. He was the only sole owner of the place before it went into foreclosure! He could very well try to get into the home to show it to a potential renter and make off with their money or vandalize and break into the home while it's vacant so it cant be rented. He was just careless to use his real name in his email address but think of those that are smarter than that. I am hoping this is an isolated incident and not a new scam trend to come!
Please pass this info on to your investors and potential renters! I will update if I hear anything from Craigslist or the steps we have to take to get this issue resolved. Please let me know if anyone else has experienced this. This was a new one to me!