Beware of scams lurking among Craigslist’s home rentals ads

By KRISTI BAILEY

We have all heard the adage that “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” This consumer nugget needs extra attention for folks looking for real estate deals on Craigslist.  Local REALTORS® report rental scams are on the upswing and that should not be a big surprise. In the past eighteen months, rents – like home prices – have increased faster than local wages.

Craigslist is a favored medium for con artists because its housing section attracts a lot of consumer traffic.  It has a reputation as a place to score a good deal.  It is also a good place to get snared in a scam.  A recent check of the local Craigslist’s apartment/housing rental section returned 450 items. Most included pictures and compelling property descriptions. It is a safe bet some were scams where photos and property descriptions were lifted from ads posted by REALTORS®.

There are red flags when responding to these ads that should send savvy consumers scurrying for the exit.

One example is the fake owner who is unhappy with their agent and is no longer local. They respond by an email or text and apologizes that he can not show the property, but you can swing by and look in the windows. They ask you not to call the agent so as not to alert them that they are planning on renting. Sometimes, a fake showing appointment with a third-party agent can be arranged if the consumer makes an up-front deposit or an upfront rental agreement with a deposit and the first month’s rent if required.

Another scam requires the consumer to provide personal information like a driver’s license number, social security number, a credit card, or even bank information before an application can be processed and walk-through planned.

Either situation is almost a guarantee that the listing is a scam and the person at the other end of the ad is there to steal your money or identity.

The increase in local rental scams and identify theft efforts via rental applications are the primary reasons consumers should partner with a professional REALTOR® before any money or personal information is provided for a real estate transaction, even a rental.  REALTORS® are professionals who adhere to a code of ethics and use the internet for legitimate business.

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It’s the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee – Southwest Virginia region representing over 1,400 members and 100 affiliates involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Pending sales, monthly Trends Reports, and the regional market analytics can be found on the NETAR website.