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Craigslist Scams on the Rise

August 12, 2020

Craigslist Scams on the Rise

Landlords, property managers, owners and sellers should be aware of a recent spike in rental property scams, especially on Craigslist, that are affecting rental units including vacant units across California and the United States.  Homes that are listed for sale, rent, or that are vacant are finding their way onto sites such as Craigslist thanks to criminals who are utilizing marketing materials to “rent” properties.  These creative scammers are utilizing fraudulent advertising photos, descriptions of properties, and other information available online, including the MLS to create traps for prospective renters.  

Although these scams may be hard to identify, there are several “red flags” that can assist individuals in assessing potential fraudulent transactions.  Some identifiers include advertisements without addresses or prices, demands to instantly wire money for the payment of rent, unreasonably low property prices, and mandatory cash payments.  Similarly, these transactions tend to use prepaid Visas, money orders, payment apps and other alternative means of making payments.  

In most of these cases “too good to be true” is in fact too good to be true.  Recent FBI warnings bear this out as scammers get more sophisticated. When it comes to low prices, individuals should check the going market rate on similar properties within the area to determine if these rental opportunities are below the local market for comparable properties.  Prudent renters should make sure they contact the property manager by telephone and schedule in-person meetings in accordance with the C.A.R. Best Practices prior to making any up-front deposits or reservation fees on the advertised property.  

Landlords, property managers, and sellers should exercise additional caution by informing current tenants of these scams and by placing advertising information on the actual property with visible contact information to dissuade would-be victims from engaging in communications with fraudulent parties.  Additionally, property managers and landlords should encourage current tenants to immediately report misplaced inquiries to the police and the landlord or property manager.  In a low-inventory marketplace, it is of the utmost importance to safeguard your properties from over‑eager renters.  In the event that your property falls victim to these scams, you can flag the post for removal on Craigslist and should report the fraudulent posting to local authorities.  Consider putting signs on the property, especially homes, clearly advising potential tenants who is listing the property. Set up a “Google alert” that will generate an email notification. Periodically check your listings to see if they have been “mirrored” in Craigslist. Learn how to utilize the special features of your lockbox. During these times where so much emphasis has been placed on remote types shows and virtual transactions vigilance is critical.

Written by:
John Giardinelli, of Counsel with Tyler & Bursch
Cody Bellmeyer, Esq., with Tyler & Bursch, LLP

Image: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/wealth/save/coronavirus-online-scams-how-to-protect-your-data-and-device/articleshow/74862378.cms

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