How to Avoid Craigslist Rental Scams

I’ve been doing some apartment hunting lately, and since I’m at work 8 hours of the day, the majority of my search starts online. I check sites like Rent.com, Apartment Finder, Apartments For Us, and of course, Craigslist. Craigslist can be a dream and a nightmare, depending on the types of posts you find. I know people who have found their dream apartments on Craigslist, and it’s even easier to find a scam on there, especially when searching for apartments.

My first encounter of a scam was looking for some rent to own properties. This is when we were living in our apartment, before we got married. I found a post that said they specialize in getting renters into properties that were rent to own. Naive me, I gave them my credit card information to charge some type of fee, and come to find out, the business was not legit. I was then out of $200, and of course, the scammers wouldn’t call me back. So this time around, I’m a bit more conservative with what I give out.

Yesterday, I was sending emails to the people who posted listings of apartments I wanted to look at. Here’s an example of an email I was sending out:

Hi there,

I’m interested in viewing this apartment. I work in [A CITY] and get off work at 4:30pm. Is there a time after this I can come view the property?

This morning, I received an e-mail back:

Hello,
I’m sorry for the delay! So many thing I had to do over the course of the last few days. The good news is that the unit is still available . There was a potential renter who had significant interest in the unit, but he got evicted from previous apartment, so we need to start showing it again, as we want to get it leased as soon as we can. Considering you had contacted us first, regarding the property, we are giving you first right of refusal.

The unit is in great condition. We know a lot of prospective renters want to take a quick look at the property, regardless, our policy is not to divulge the address, as there are some lunatics in the world with bad intentions. The last time we gave out the address without verifying the prospective tenant. We don’t want that to happen again. I’ll confirm what you probably already know this property is gorgeous! A leasing like this would typically go for much more, but again, I need to lease it right now, which is why the lease rate is a tremendous value.

The utilities are intact and can be switched over to you once the lease is signed. You will be responsible for cable, internet, and phone – if you decide to have these services. Pets are allowed but just need to know the size and breed for our records. The leasing term is 12-month lease, but can be switched to a 6-month lease, if that is more favorable. The only requirement is that you send us 30 days notice, when you want to move out of the unit.

If you would like to set up an appointment, go to the link below and request the free copy of your rental / credit report. The scores are insignificant – we realize many folks have had foreclosures, bankruptcy, etc. For insurance purposes, we are required to have a report on file from every prospective tenant. Here is the link: [BUM LINK HERE]

The only pages we require are regarding your rental history. You just need to bring that to your appointment to see the property.

My availability over the next few days is going to be constrained, but I will try to be available between 10am and 8pm. After you have completed the online process, let me know that you have a hard copy and I can schedule an appointment at the rental.
See you soon!

Alice Johnson

Now there were a few red flags in “Alice Johnson”‘s e-mail:

  • The e-mail address and from name were from “Elisa Woods”, not Alice Johnson
  • Although the link that I removed led to a decent looking Equifax landing page, the link was 123link.info. Why not say where I can get a legit free credit score or report?
  • Usually, when someone’s e-mail is soandso@businessname.com, you can go to businessname.com and there’s a website. I Googled the website, and did a WHOIS search, and it was not a company.
  • I did a similar WHOIS search for 123link.info, and it looked extremely sketchy.

So I did some more research, and came across a page from National Credit Report warning people about credit report scams from Craigslist. Lo and behold, there was an example email that read almostword for word like the one I pasted above.

This can happen to you too if you’re not careful. Always do your research when looking for a place on Craigslist.

  • Be wary of emails coming from one person but signed as someone else
  • Know where to get a legit free credit score and report (like our friends at Credit Karma)
  • Also be wary of people who don’t post at least the cross streets of the property
  • Don’t trust anyone who has a script that reads like the one above
  • Never give your personal information via Internet or even over the phone

Have you fallen victim of a similar credit scam? What other tips do you have to avoid them?

4 Responses to How to Avoid Craigslist Rental Scams

  1. Agatha says:

    “Also be wary of people who don’t post at least the cross streets of the property” – that’s a good one. I have seen that a lot on Craigslist & it reeks of shadiness.

  2. Kelly Whalen says:

    You definitely have to be careful on Craig’s List and other online sites that sell or give things away.

  3. AbigailP says:

    I’ve never had a problem with Craigslist apartment listings. I used it to find a few of the apartments — including one where we had to move 1,500 miles and so couldn’t just check out properties.

    Usually, the easiest way to know if it’s a scam? If they won’t tell you where it is. They obviously want to show you a unit in order to rent it. So if they decline showing the place, it doesn’t exist.

    The biggest red flag for this email was the promise of preference. I practically quit reading there. Whoever gets an application and deposit in first has preference. There’s no other kind, unless the owner is living on site and has to deal with the renters personally.

    Of course, another biggie was the length of the response — and that it answered tons of questions you didn’t ask. It was, as I’m sure you realized when you read it, a form letter made to sound like a personal response. A very poor effort, really, but I guess you only have to fool one person, right?

  4. Kira @Planwise says:

    I have came across many Craigslist scams when I was looking for houses. The ones that I saw all said that they were out of the country in some third world country doing work with a church organization and that they would mail the key to me after I sent the rent check. I seriously got about five of these messages in different variations and knew they were fake.

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