Are you in the market for a new place to live and dealing with a realtor seems to be out of the question? Where do you turn? A lot of people think that Craigslist holds many great opportunities for low cost rental properties.
But before you begin your search or sign on the dotted line, be aware that there are many unscrupulous people using Craigslist, posing as rental agents, just to get your personal and financial information.
The number of fake rental scams on Craigslist and other online classifieds continues to grow, with new aliases appearing daily. But while the names may change, the methods are always the same. Don’t believe these ads appear only on Craigslist. They could show up anywhere!
These thieves, mainly based in Nigeria, the U.K. and the U.S., are out to steal your money and your identity. However, the scammers could be in your own back yard.
BBB advises to be on the lookout for the following for avoiding Craigslist apartment rental scams:
• The email addresses they use usually are from yahoo, ymail, rocketmail, fastermail, live, hotmail and gmail, and they also post ads under anonymous craigslist addresses. They frequently change their aliases.
• The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
• They use photos stolen from other property advertisements or from home furnishing catalogues or hotel websites.
• They use fake names, often stolen from Facebook profiles or networking sites. Often they assume the identities of previous victims.
• What they all have in common is that sooner or later you get a request to transfer funds via Western Union, Moneygram or some other wire service.
• Never under any circumstances, wire money at the request of any prospective “landlord” via Western Union, Money Gram or any other wire service. Even if they tell you to wire the funds to a friend or relative’s name “to be safe,” it’s a trap!
• Never send a scan of your passport or other ID. These thieves will use your identity to scam others. Ask to see the landlord's ID - record all the information you can from it.
• Use a browser to search for the person's name who you're dealing with. Be sure to add quotes around their name. You could add the words "fraud" or "scam" at the end of your search terms.
• Use reverse directory look up if the person has given you their telephone number. It's important to double check that they are who they say they are.
• Visit the local county courthouse to look up property ownership for the apartment in question. Who really owns it? Is it the person you're dealing with? Or someone else?
• Scan any provided photographs carefully. Do they match up with what you've seen in person? Do they look like they all came from the same place?
• They don't ask for an application or permission to check your credit? That's a red flag!
• Considering the current state of our economy and the rise in foreclosures, ask the landlord if they're current on their mortgage payments, and then get their answer in writing.
• Consider using another method for obtaining a rental, i.e. real estate agent, going through a rental agency, etc.
• Always check bbb.org to see if the “company” has any complaints.