Rental scam -- real property, fake landlord
Photo: Video by IdahoOnYourSide.com
Low-cost apartments on Craigslist are the bait thieves use to steal money from unsuspecting people looking for a place to live. The scam artist finds a legitimately listed property and hijacks it or creates a cloned listing. One woman reported to BBB someone used Craigslist to rent property that belonged to her. A prospective tenant forwarded her an e-mail message from the scammer who claimed to be a U.S. citizen with a temporary “assignment” in Africa. The person also reported the scammer took the name of her previous tenant and was impersonating the tenant with a fake e-mail address.
We know of a couple young ladies who moved from Idaho to the Salt Lake area – they found a listing on Craigslist, were told this great story of a person stationed overseas needing a renter. The ladies needed a place to stay, wired the money and when they arrived at the appointed time and place to pick up the key, figured out they had just been scammed out of hundreds of dollars. This is obviously the Nigerian rental scam. A quick web search even found exact matches for entire sentences in the above letter from people reporting the scam. Versions of the scam differ, but people have reported being asked to wire money to someone via Western Union or another service to make sure that you’re not a “time waster” or as payment to have them ship the keys to the rental property. If you send money to someone like this, you won’t have a place to rent, and you’ll have to scrape up more money for a deposit when you do find a real place..
BBB advises renters of the following red flags to look out for:
• The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers often list a rental for a low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
• The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via e-mail. Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work – don’t believe it.
• The landlord requires a real deposit. Don’t pay any money before inspecting the home, inside and out.
• The landlord asks the renter to wire money. Money sent via wire transfer service is very difficult to retrieve and once the scammers have picked it up, there is little recourse. Your money is gone forever.
--Dale Dixon, BBB