How to spot a craiglist scam

Property Manager with AmeriTeam Property Management SL#3200658

How to spot a craiglist scam

How to spot a craiglist scam


It's that time again.  Yes, the real estate/rentals busy season is upon us- which also heralds an increase in the number of craigslist scams that one might stumble across while searching for a new place to call home.


While there's no sure-fire way to guard against every craigslist scam/scammer (those guys are pretty dang crafty, you know), there are some common threads shared by many of the scams and the shysters who look to use them to take advantage of the unsuspecting and unwary among us:


1. Ad for the property has a single photo or no photos at all.  This is typically a picture of the front of a home that's been lifted off an active, legitimate ad for the same property.  Just as fellow Realtors have a sort of "crappy house radar" that goes berserk when viewing an MLS ad with a single photo, prospects should be cautious of craigslist ads that only contain a single photo.


2. Property is listed for rent at $700, $850, etc- when comparable properties on the market nearby are listed for considerably more.  The ol' "If it seems to good to be true, it is" line comes to mind here.  Trust your first instincts here- knowing that if it does, it indeed is.


3. Property is listed with "all utilities included".  I won't say there's zero chance of this being legitimate- but in the nearly 13 years that I've spent in the property management business, I've never had an owner pay for utilities in a single family home. You should always be a bit skeptical when an ad for a single family property states that all utilities are included with monthly rent.


4. Ads for a property include references to making any sort of payments via Western Union.  Nothing against the fine folks at Western Union, of course- but they seem to have become the preferred method of payment used by a number of scammers.  You have to be a bit suspicious of folks you can actually meet in person these days- so it goes without saying that you should never, ever, ever send money to folks in faraway states or distant lands such as Nigeria.


In general, you should never give any money to folks you can't meet in person.  Some out-of-area owners may use local property managers to handle things in their absence- and that is all well and good.  In those cases, ensure you can meet up with that person/company before you consider parting with any of your money.


5.  Ads for a property (or emails you receive once you've responded to an ad) give a big sob story or a tale of woes that have been visited upon the owner of the property.  The folks you're dealng with in these cases typically aren't the properties' real owners, of course- something you can verify relatively quickly by reviewing the local property appraiser or tax assessor's records for the property you're interested in.  This is another case where if something seems a bit shady, it likely is a bit shady- and any money sent to or time spent on these individuals will surely be wasted.


So what are some of the "do's" that will allow you to take advantage of craigslist as part of your search for a new place to rent- while keeping the dirtbags from taking advantage of you?  That's the easy part if you follow a few simple rules:


- always deal with individuals or companies that are local to you and the property you're interested in
- research a property you're interested in as much as possible
- do all you can to verify the identities of folks you're meeting with to view a property, including asking folks for photo ID
- request items in writing as often as possible, especially at times when you have concerns about anyone's credibility


and lastly (yet perhaps most importantly)...use your common sense, and always trust it more than you trust anything (or anyone) else.


How to spot a craiglist scam



Posted by
Property Manager

Licensed Florida Realtor
AmeriTeam Property Management
845 N. Garland Ave., #200
Orlando, FL  32801
205-445-4755 cell/direct
407-901-3636 x103 office
407-901-5147 office fax
Turning vacant into occupied, and "houses" into "homes"SM

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Chandler Real Estate Liz Harris, MBA
Liz Harris Realty - Chandler, AZ

Thank you for the rundown Dennis.  Gotta always keep things like this in the general awareness. 

Mar 25, 2014 07:29 AM #1
Adrian Willanger
206 909-7536 - Seattle, WA
Profit from my two decades of experience

Dennis, last year I had a listing in a very nice area I had one individual come through an open house and she called me the next day and said she wanted to rent it. She said it was on Craigslist. 

Mar 25, 2014 09:06 AM #2
Dennis Burgess
AmeriTeam Property Management - Mid Florida, FL
Orlando Property Manager and Realtor

Hi, Liz:  Thank you for dropping by, and for your comment- absolutely!

Mar 26, 2014 06:53 AM #3
Dennis Burgess
AmeriTeam Property Management - Mid Florida, FL
Orlando Property Manager and Realtor

Hi, Adrian:  Thank you for stopping by, and for your comment.  The tales from the craigslist trail...or craigslist chronicles..or.. could be neverending.  It often reminds me of my days living in D.C. once they made radar detecters illegal in Virginia:  folks would have still radar detecters, the Virginia State Police got radar detecter detecters, then folks were off looking for radar detecter detecter detecters!

Mar 26, 2014 06:57 AM #4
Frank Harper
Idaho Family Real Estate - Boise, ID
Broker/Owner, Realtor, GRI, SFR.

It seems like the scams never end and criminals are always trying to steal from consumers!

Mar 27, 2014 12:35 AM #5
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Dennis Burgess

Orlando Property Manager and Realtor
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