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Old 11-20-2009, 10:20 AM
291 posts, read 786,587 times
Reputation: 169


[CENTER][CENTER]Craig’s List Rental Scams and a Safe Alternative[/CENTER][/CENTER]

One of the frequently asked Questions that I see on this site, is the one asking if there is a web site available for researching rental properties. Up until now, the most common response was to steer people to Craig’s List, with the caveat to be careful, because like many things on the Internet, there are always people out there who figure out a way to scam users.

I recently attended a class on property management tips that was sponsored by the Denver Board of Realtors, and taught by Mr. Peter Meer. Mr. Meer is the Owner/Broker of Meer & Company and currently manages over 150 single family homes. Mr. Meer is also a speaker, trainer, consultant, and is frequently called upon as an expert witness in lawsuits.

In his presentation, Mr. Meer mentioned Craig’s List that in his opinion, it was “the number one site for rental scams”. Being a Realtor, I’ve also seen warnings about Craig’s List from the selling side of real estate. In this class of about 35 people, we had two attendees give examples of personal fraud they experienced. That ratio is one out of 17, which should give you an example of how wide spread this is.

The first example was where the rental manager drove up to a home with potential tenants to show them the property, only to find someone else in the home showing it to another individual. The “rental agent” that was in the process of showing the home had “lifted” the company’s logo off the internet and had made fake business cards to present to clients he was trying to scam.
In the second case, the rental agent drove up to the home, to show it to a potential tenant only to have another lady drive up minutes later, and ask why she was still showing the home, because the lady claimed she had already sent in her deposit. She sent in a deposit, but it wasn’t to the legitimate property management company.

This scam works pretty much the same way, whether it involves a rental or property for sale. The individual gains access to a property and have their own keys made. They then advertise these homes on Craig’s List, meet the potential renter or buyer, and then extract a deposit from those interested parties. After they’ve paid their deposit and first month’s rent and signed a lease, they’re then given a green light to move in. That’s when the fraud is mostly likely to be detected; when someone that isn’t authorized is found to be living in a supposedly vacant property. In the case of home listed for sale, the victim’s loss is usually limited to the deposit, unless the fraudulent person allows the victim to “rent” the home until the closing is consummated.

The big Red Flag, that you may be a target for a scam, is if a home rental price seems to be a particularly good deal. This is easier for someone from the same town, but is very hard for someone that’s unfamiliar with a particular city, as they generally have no idea of what local rental cost are. Mr. Meer feels that in the future, some sort of regulation will coming to deal with this problem, but doesn’t think it’s imminent. One attendee, at the class, said New York State requires a $10 fee for each real estate related advertisement on Craig’s List. While a $10 fee won’t limit a scammer, paying that fee creates a paper trail.

Other than Craig’s List, people had to rely on classified ads, which are dying, or contact property management companies and have them find them a rental. This is something most people are reluctant to do in the initial stages of their searches.

Now here’s the great tip that was given by Mr. Meer. While there isn’t a single site that renters can go to, there is a site where property managers can go to list their rental properties. This site is called http://www.rentmarketer.com/rm/cm/page/home.html it’s a site where managers can pay a one time fee for each property and then have it syndicated on up to 100 rental sites across the country. As a potential tenant, go to this site and then click on “Product”. From there, go to the “Platinum Package” then click on “view sites”. There is work involved, in the sense that you have to sift through many sites, but take comfort in the fact they are all legitimate rentals.

Last edited by Mike from back east; 11-20-2009 at 10:44 AM.. Reason: Reformatted
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Old 11-20-2009, 10:50 AM
20,287 posts, read 37,738,230 times
Reputation: 18047
Mods, et al: I copied this to the Renting forum, since it applies nationwide and is of service to all renters and landlords.

Craigslist scams are for real and all renters / buyers should beware when using CL: If it sounds too good to be true, it's a scam.

Here's a thread from our Denver forum, where a gal found a house that was too good to be true, so she asked our opinion. Be sure to see her posting (#10) where she told us what was really going on, yep, a nigerian scammer.
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