What A Craigslist Housing Scam Looks Like

For anybody who has ever looked for rentals online…you need to know this to protect your hard earned money!

Recently my husband got orders out of state so I’ve been doing the best I can to find a home online (or at least discover what areas look good via steet view)

When replying to various Craigstlist and Trulia ads I have received no less than 30 fake scam responses. Most are exactly word for word, others use a bit of a different writing style.

I wanted to post one of the more generic responses I’ve received in an effort to just let other house hunters aware of what a scam looks like.

The big tip off: a nice house, or home in a nice area, for the same price as the less desirable areas. For instance, this came from a home that actually exists in Mustang OK. Those homes rent for $1,000 and above. This was for a 2200 sq ft rental for something like $650. The listing has since been flagged and removed or I’d post their ad, too.

I knew it was a scam and thought I’d mess with them a bit.

I sent a generic “is this still available” email and got this:

Thanks for your email, I personally own the house, I want my property to be well taken good care of, and there are some rules and regulation in which I do give out to tenant willing to rent my house so please don’t disrespect my order But if you are still capable of renting my house the rules and regulation goes this way
You must keep my house clean including the surrounding, you must know the way in which you use the stove so as to avoid fire outbreak,you must not disturb the neighbor.I decided to rent out the property due to our transfer to (West Africa) on a Missionary Work in a church here named World Mission, so we are renting it out since we need someone to take good care of the property on our absent. Don’t be surprise if you find the home with another site and deference price, I have plan to rent it through Real estate before, but they are not serious simply because they have a lot of house to lease out And they added some money to the rent while there commission is not fair.
Have this in mind you must know the kind of person that I’m nevertheless I am giving you this rules because of what corresponded between me and my last tenant. the keys and documents are with us here in West Africa… So I will need to ship them to you before you can occupy the house But you can drive by the house anytime to take a look at the area and surrounding, You can also peek through the windows if you don’t mind.

let me know if you are still interested so that I can forward you the Rental Questionnaire to fill out…

Number of Bedrooms:4
Number of baths:2
Square footage:2,200
Pets are welcome!!!
Rent:$650
Refundable security Deposit:$600
House Address: [withheld]

Thanks and God bless you.

Donny R Morgan,

These types are the more sloppy emails I’ve seen. Some scammers use better writing which makes it more difficult to detect right off the bat.

The big red flags in this one are:

  1. the broken english
  2. the fact that the “owner” is out of the country
  3. that pets are welcome (most high end rentals in this area do not allow pets)
  4. and that they have to mail the keys to you.

I actually messed with another scammer for a long time-up until the point where they told me where to send the money (western union of course). The address he gave me for his flat in London? A LONDON COFFEE SHOP.

I seriously considered telling him I sent the money and for him to be waiting for it, etc. but got distracted and never did.

These scammers take legitimate MLS and FSBO listing information and pictures and post them as their own. Then when (and hopefully rarely) the unsuspecting renter sends their deposit and first month’s rent to the scammer that person is out the money and without a place  to live.

Tips to avoid a scam:

  1. Google the phone number in the listing. See who or what company is it.
  2. Aim to work only with property mangers. Their listings tend to have a phone number or website in the post.
  3. Got an email address in the listing? Google it to see if what comes up
  4. When dealing with a private party rental- BE. CAREFUL. Period. It’s more of a risk than renting with a property manager or real estate agent. If the price is too good to be true..it probably is.

Get informed, tell someone about this, and help keep yourself and loved ones from being scammed!