Craigslist rental scams are nothing new, but they are still happening to sellers and agents everyday. If you are using Craigslist to find rental property, please make sure that you are in contact with a real person in real life.
Craigslist posts a warning on all of the real estate pages:
Avoid scams and fraud by dealing locally! Beware any arrangement involving Western Union, Moneygram, wire transfer, or a landlord/owner who is out of the country or cannot meet you in person.
Typically the scam artist will only communicate via email and uses a story that they are currrently doing missionary work in Africa and therefore can’t meet in person. They will request that you fill out an application and send a deposit and/or first and last month’s rent via Western Union. They then indicate if you are approved, they will mail you the key. The key never arrives and the money is gone.
Many of the postings on Craigslist are “hijacked” listings taken from other local and national real estate websites and the Seller has no idea there home is being used to advertise the fake rental. The postings use a photo and provides basic info about the house so it looks legitimate. Often the monthly rent is way below market prices – remember, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is!
People have lost money in this scam! If you have been a victim or if you know of someone who has, please direct them to the section Craigslist has set up that includes links to the FTC and Fraud Complaint Center.