One of my best friends sent me a text message a little while ago asking if I could look up a listing for her. (I work for Zillow, in case you weren't aware) She is looking at a rental they found on Craiglist and when they did a drive-by, it had a for-sale sign in front - NOT a for-rent sign. A big red flag went up.
What is troubling is that the listing is pending sale, according to Zillow.com. Looking up the property records, an individual's name is not listed because it was a bank-owned property that has been in foreclosure for a few years.
Unfortunately, this is the second instance I've heard about rental scams in the last week. I don't even work with rentals or any listings for that matter, yet, it's a prevalent issue.
My friend provided some additional details: the rental listing was on Craigslist and whoever posted it said that they were in North Carolina and weren't available to meet right away, but that they should do a drive-by. The pictures and listing details were stolen from the active listing details, which makes it easy for consumers to believe in the credibility of a fraudulant listing - particularly when a home is staged and the photographs are professionally taken.
I told my friend to flag the listing on Craigslist as fraud and as a rental scam, but also gave her the listing agent's information to make them aware of what is going on.
I guess we just need to take this as a warning to be diligent in watching out for consumers who don't know much about real estate - even my friend, who is one of the smartest people I know, could have fallen victim of these malicious scammers.
Keep your eyes out!