The current housing crisis is no different. Scammers are taking preying on the rush of people who are trying to rent out or sell homes and the…
The Latest Housing Bubble Monster: Craigslist Scammers
Published Jun 13, 2008 | RSS Feed | Text Size
Nigerian scammers have begun to target the millions of people who search Craigslist for apartments and rental homes every year. Get details on their scheme here.
BY BAILEY HARRIS
In almost any crisis, there are people who try to help and people who try to take advantage of a bad situation. The current housing crisis is no different.
Scammers are taking preying on the rush of people who are trying to rent out or sell homes and the increasing number of people who are trying to rent a different property. Their latest arena is Craigslist, a site with free classified advertisements.
How the Scam Works
According to most of the stories that have come out recently, the scam typically starts with someone scouring the Internet for homes that are for sale or for rent. The schemers take the information they find and craft an ad for Craigslist.
In most cases, the ad looks completely legit and includes a description of the home, an address and a picture. The only problem is that the person placing the ad is not the person who owns the home.
The ad is merely a lure for unsuspecting renters. The scam artists sometimes get the renters to fill out credit applications that ask for personal information, such as social security numbers, credit history and work history.
Other times, they ask renters to send money to secure the rental via check or Western Union. Stories vary, but most of the people who place bogus Craigslist ads claim to be in Nigeria for missionary work and say that they need someone to rent the home while they are away.
Another Craigslist Scam
There is another home rental scam that plagues Craigslist to a lesser extent. This one involves people who answer home rental ads.
The scammers usually claim to be foreign students who want to secure an apartment or home rental in the United States. It sounds innocent enough--at first.
But then the would-be renters invent a cock-and-bull story about an inheritance check that needs to be cashed for the security deposit and the first month's rent. The check is always bigger than the amount the landlord is asking for.
Once the check is cashed, the landlord is supposed to send the extra money back to the would-be renter. Of course, the check is bogus--much like the renter's interest in the property.
A little bit of common sense goes a long way when trying to avoid scams on the Internet, particularly on Craigslist. If something seems fishy, then it probably is. If you are thinking about renting out a property, check online to see if you can find out more about it. If the home seems to be owned by someone other than the person who placed the ad, make a few calls to confirm your suspicion one way or the other.
A few other resources that you might want to check out include:
Mortgage & Financial Services