Craigslist is a wonderful site, whose users keep increasing. I vertise there, as do many Realtors, and I browse the listings to see if I can find something that will meet my need or desire. If you have spent any mount of time on the site, you will be aware of the fact that craigslist is vigilant when it comes to sussing out fraud. In fact, Realtors have been upset in the past, because their listings have been labelled fraudulent. This, however, does not stop scam artists from using the site to find their marks.
I received a report today from my local Realtor Association which stated that rental/sale property scams have been on the increase around the country, using craigslist as the medium of the fraud. It seems that there are two versions of this scam. One is the scammer taking a listing for a sale by a Realtor; copying it, but rephrasing the for sale and contact information with a for rent label and the scammer’s contact information. Here is a post which indicates that this has happened. I believe at this point that the original listing has a complaint filed against it to have it delisted. The con artist will go back and forth with the potential renter via e-mail until he can obtain a month’s rent to turn over the key. The second variation is for a rental listing being handled by a Realtor that is not on the site will be listed on craigslist by the scammer. The same e-mail situation ensues.
It is not clear if the scammers have access to the residences to show them, but one report on the craigslist crimebusters site indicates that they might. This may be easier than you think to accomplish. As a home inspector, I need to gain access to a variety of properties. One such means of access is a Supra key. I am a member of the local Realtor’s Association, through which I paid for the service of having a Supra. Many non-Realtors in a brokerage firm will also have (or have access to) a Supra key too. The Supra box does have a way for Realtors to keep track on who entered the house, but this may not be checked if nothing untoward has occurred. It should be noted that local associations do take steps to ensure that only reputable individuals will obtain such a key, but a dedicated scammer could obtain a key I am sure. Combo lockboxes have the problem that many use the same codes, so someone who has been in the real estate industry may be aware of this fact.
With our current economic climate, renting is becoming the main option for many, and finding a deal is certainly a primary concern of most of us. This may cause us to go to a site like craigslist, where there is an image that we might find a good deal. The positive aspect of this situation is that craigslist does try to stop this abuse, but it is more important that the consumer not hand over any money until things look above board. Arrange a meeting to sign paperwork and to obtain the key. If the property owner is unwilling to meet you, then something is probably up.