The popularity of Craigslist is well known. It is a wonderful place to buy and sell a wide variety of items. I've used it myself on many occasion with much success. Sadly not everyone who uses Craigslist to promote items for sale or rent is honest and trustworthy. There's no shortage of warnings on the site. If you follow the link at the bottom of every ad posted on Craigslist, it will warn you of all the things you need to be careful doing! House rental ads on Craigslist are suspect. Sadly, many are real but many are not.
Let me share a story with you that happened to me very recently.
I listed a home for sale. A couple days later I received a call from a woman wanting to know if the property was "for sale or rent." The minute she asked I knew exactly what happened. It happens with great regularity, it's very predictable.
The lady went on to explain to me how she became suspicious. She found the ad on Craigslist, the rental rate was really great so she responded to the ad. She received an email back explaining the circumstances of the rental. Some of the language was suspect, so she decided to drive by the property.
As she was parked out front she noted there was a dog inside the home. This is when the story didn't mesh.
Read the Craigslist Scammer's letter:
Thanks for your interest and inquiries about my house. Yes the house is still available for rent and we are looking for a responsible person/family to occupy and maintain the house now that we are not around. My wife and I just traveled to West Africa for a program called SERVING IN MISSION (SIM), you can view the link for more info: (http://www.sim.org/index.php/content/our-purpose).
We will be away for 2 to 3 years or more that is why I have made up my mind to put up my house for rent to whom ever that will take good care of it. However, my initial plan was to sell the house but it was not successful because the Realtor raised the price which made it difficult for me to sell before leaving the States so never mind if you see the for sale sign in front of the house, It has already been taken off the market as for sale so there is no need to contact any Realtor.
Also how long do you intend to stay? How soon do you intend to move in?
FEATURES: Laundry, Electric Range, Electric Heat, Master Bedroom, Playground, Car Park.
AMENITIES: Air Conditioning, Patio/Party Deck, Cable TV, Ceiling Fans, 24 hours Internet service, Dishwasher, Fireplace, Garbage Disposal, Microwave, security alarm, Pets Friendly, Refrigerator, Washer / Dryer.
DETAILS ABOUT THE HOUSE..
Number of bedrooms: 2
Number of bathrooms: 1
Date Available: Asap
Sq-Ft : 1640ft²
Rental Price: $700 per month and security Deposit is $700 (Security Deposit is Refundable) Utilities included in monthly rent.
Total Move In Cost: $1,400
Pets are Welcome.
Below is the address to the house:
(1(redacted)S St, Denver CO 80210)
Get back to me so I can forward you the rent questionnaire I would like you to fill out.
You can call or text me on (011-234-812-357-9910 or +234-812-357-9910)
Mr & Mrs B(redacted for privacy)
The email sounds very sincere, the writer took the time to illustrate all the amenities in the house, sadly for him/her he wasn't using American English terms. Even at that, it's still somewhat believable.
The amount of rent is very low, probably 1/3 of what this house would rent for in this neighborhood. It was low enough that the actual owners would like that deal!
The comment about the "Realtor raised the price making it difficult to sell." A sophisticated person would know that Realtors are not able to "raise the price" without seller authorization!
He/she next invalidates the fact their is a sign in the yard. Basically created mistrust of the listing agent, because he/she knows most people will drive by the house if possible.
To further evoke trust the scammer took the time to look up ownership records, they used the actual owner's name. In addition they created an email account with Yahoo using this name again. Anyone checking ownership (which is a matter of public record) would think this must be the real thing!
The barking dog left behind by the couple who moved to Africa, just didn't jive.
I appreciate the lady who initially called, sharing with me her email from the Scammer. She and I were outraged. So were the 40 or 50 others (I lost count) who called over the course of the next few days.
Everyone I spoke to would flag the Craigslist ad, but as soon as they did, another would pop up.
Obviously this is a scam that works, sometimes. If it doesn't work, why would the scammers spend so much time trying to scam innocent people?
When it comes to deals on Craigslist, it is best to remember what your Mother probably said, "If it seems to good to be true, it usually is."