Consumer Alert – Craigslist Rental Scams

(Editor?s note: Remove the little ones. Kris is on a rant.)

I?m pissed (that?s a technical term). This is a scam, and it?s not even a new one, but this particular evil-doer is incorrigible.

Craigslist Scam

A certain opportunist has decided to target one of our client?s homes, a home which is offered for sale, in a Craigslist scam. I can?t flag it as such fast enough, because he keeps reposting. Like my friend with (failing health, oppressive government, insert your favorite story here) on the African continent who desires to place a large sum of money in my bank account if only I would be so kind as to send him my social security number and my checkbook, this individual apparently finds it more noble to bilk well-intended, hard-working people of their money than to actually get a real job.

My pissed-off-ed-ness has reached a crescendo in that Steve and I are fielding a dozen phones calls a day from potential tenants who are utterly confused. More importantly, my most awesome of clients is now living on the equivalent of the Macy?s Thanksgiving Day Parade route as dozens of interested renters do their preoccupancy drive-bys.

In our case, and I know this from the boatload of emails, the schtick is that this dude probably bagged my client?s name from the tax records. He then set up a bogus Yahoo! email account (untraceable, of course) with my client?s name. When would-be renters respond to his Craigslist ad, he says that he has the only set of keys, that he is out of state, and that upon receipt of an $1800 security deposit, he will get them in to see the joint. Of course, the photos on the ad are right-clicked off of our own MLS input.

The good news is that I have met a lot of really nice people this week as I explained ad nauseum how this home is: a) not for rent; and b) people can be icky. The bad news is that I have come to learn that (correct me if I am wrong, law enforcement officials), unless money has changed hands, no crime has been committed. And here is where I beg to differ.

This has happened to us before, but not to this extent. It is a crime in my book that someone can assume a fake identity and exhibit clear intent to defraud. It is a crime that a well-meaning, unsuspecting property owner is compelled to put a sign in his driveway saying that his home is not for rent. And it is a crime that Craigslist doesn?t take a more active role in stopping this insanity.

The problem is that anyone with a valid email address can post anything. I am all for freedom of the people, but if I might offer Craig a little advice and suggest that this stuff is becoming too routine to be ignored. How about this? Charge 99 cents for a posting; it works for iTunes. It?s nothing. Everyone can find 99 cents in their dryer or in the cushions of their sofa. Heck, my dog has ingested at least a few dollars in loose coin in the last week alone. By requiring a charge card, you have a record. It is not a money-making proposition, but it is a deterrent.

We post all of our listings on Craigslist (we are rethinking that, by the way), and we would happily pay a buck if it meant that this kind of crap could be curbed.

So, to my scam artist, you are the lowest of the low. To consumers, please be careful. Use commonsense, and if it is too good to be true, it probably is.

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