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Property Management 101: Beware Of The Craigslist Scam
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Property Management 101: Beware Of the Craigslist Scam

Craigslist has proven to be a viable marketing source for many goods, products, and services. However, the site is victimized by scammers with an array of tricks, treats, and scams!

One Available Target

As the use of the internet has grown and expanded, so has the availability of personal and private information. Anyone anywhere around the world can access information about real estate and use it to attempt to scam people out of their money, their belongings, and their dignity. Sources available online provide information such as addresses, property taxes, assessed values, names of owners, current photos, property descriptions, and much, much more.

One Popular Method

The target for a typical scam could be your rental property (if you are the owner) or the home you think you just rented (if you are a tenant). Alleged sweat shops around the world look for a recently advertised rental property whose owner lives either out-of-state, out-of-town, or currently is out of the country. In other words, we have an absentee owner whom purportedly you are never going to meet and will have communication with only by email.

Warning Flag # 1: The Absentee Owner

With an absentee owner, a potential scam is created using the internet, a site such as craigslist, and a fake email address. The authentic ad for the rental property contains current photos, a detailed description, and of course the property address.

How It Works

The scammers cross reference the address of the current internet ad with the county tax roll and find the owners with out-of-town mailing addresses (the property address and the mailing address are different). The owners name is then used to create and obtain an email address that gives the illusion of belonging to the owner. For example, JOHN Q. SMITH, JR. is shown as the owner of 1234 MAIN STREET and has a mailing address in another city. An email address such as JohnQJrSmith@XYZdotcom is obtained and then used to set up a craigslist account.

Warning Flag # 2: The Peculiar Email Address

Next, with an active but fraudulent email address, a Craigslist account is set up and ads are posted advertising the rental at a price that is substantially lower than the current asking price. The low price is a clear indication that something is up! As we all know, when something seems to good to be true, it usually is! A $300,000 house that should rent from $1,500-$2,000 is simply not going to be on the market at $750-$800.

Warning Flag # 3: The Price Is Too Good To Be True

Other Obvious Clues

1. The email correspondence is clearly written by a non-English speaking person. If you read and write the English the language, particularly if it's your native tongue, you will recognize incorrectly written prose.

2. The owner is out of the country.

3. Instructions are given to ignore the 'realty' (don't ignore the real estate sign--call the number and speak to the agent!).

4. It is explained that the rental is priced below market because the owner wants someone to take care of the house (every owner wants the house taken care of so this explanation makes no sense whatsoever).

5. The property is available for as long as you want (it's probably not a good idea to ever rent a house for more than a year).

6. You will not be able to see the inside of the house.

7. You are instructed to '...send money and we will send you the keys...'.

8. If it smells like a scam, looks like a scam, and tastes like a scam, it's probably a scam.

What You Can Do

Using your common sense is the first thing you can do to avoid being scammed. Call a real estate professional when in doubt. Avoid giving your hard earned money to someone instead of to a company. Keep your greed in check. Most victims know it's too good to be true, and can't help themselves! Don't be a fool, protect yourself, use a professional.

Craigslist Recommendations

Clearly aware of scams and fraudulent ads, Craigslist offers several warnings, allows users to flag accounts, and has precautions in place to help prevent financial losses by their users. Suggestion: Read and follow the Craigslist guidelines to avoid being scammed!

In Conclusion

Consumers can help avoid the pitfalls of internet scams by employing professional property managers and learning about property management fundamentals before renting or leasing. As a property manager I have received calls from prospective tenants who had the common sense to call before sending money and falling prey to the scam. Use your common sense, do your research, and always know who you are dealing with!

This is one in a series of articles on property management for landlords, tenants, and managers.


Street Talk

Brandon8  

Do you have a link to what a scam would actually look like? My mom isn't too high tech so she needs to learn how to spot a page quickly.

Reply
  about 8 years ago
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