Craigslist: A Home For Scams

Craigslist: A Home For Scams

Chloe Seaman
October 29, 2016

Another Craigslist scam has reemerged.

If you’re looking for a place to rent, be warned. Scammers are out there posing as homeowners and copying real listings to post on the classifieds site.

We posted a story this month on our Facebook page about a Michigan woman who was recently the unfortunate victim of such a scam.

At first, the Craigslist ad felt like a “blessing.” Teresa Johnson corresponded back and forth with the fake owner until they told her she could move in. They asked her to send a $16,000 security deposit but $800 was all she had.

She wired her entire savings of $800 via Western Union – never to hear anything back.

When she and her 4-year-old daughter arrived at the house they were to supposedly move in to, they were met with a shock.

The lights were on and the real homeowners were home.

Without a home to rent, Johnson and her young daughter were forced to live in a motel for the time-being.

Anybody can be susceptible to a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Scammers will often, though not always, deceive victims into thinking they’re “good” people. In Johnson’s experience, the bogus Craigslist ad said the owner was in Haiti on a “mission trip” and was looking to rent the house while overseas.

“He was a man of the ‘cloth’ so I’m thinking that he’s a good person,” said Johnson. “You know you think that you are wise enough and street smart and beware of wolves in sheep clothing and I should have known better,” she added.

Posing as a “good” person online was just one common tactic scammers use to deceive. In Johnson’s story, there are several signs we can all learn from.

How to avoid and recognize scams on Craigslist

  • Johnson made the mistake of wiring money. Never wire funds, such as through Western Union. “Anyone who asks you to is a scammer,” says Craigslist.

  • Never pay anyone you don’t meet in person.

  • Do not rent a place without checking it out in person.

  • The scammer in Johnson’s case made up the story of being away in Haiti. Scammers refuse to meet face-to-face, so this was a clear indication something fishy was going in.

  • Most scammers will use a phone number that’s different than your local area.

  • If someone claims a transaction is “guaranteed,” they’re likely a scammer.

  • If someone offers to send you a cashier’s check or money order, then have you wire money, they are “ALWAYS” a scammer, says Craigslist.

  • Never trust a deal that sounds too good to be true.

  • Look out for poor grammar and spelling. This is often, though not always, evidence of a scammer.

  • Never reveal your financial info (bank account, social security, PayPal account, etc).

  • Run a Craigslist background check.

You can also use a property search like BeenVerified to look up property records, which can give you potential insight into the identity of the homeowners.

Scams like this can be avoided with the right knowledge. Craigslist may be a useful resource for finding a home, but it is also a home for many scams: use it with extreme caution.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.