Craigslist can be a great resource for finding a rental home, but unfortunately can be double-edged sword. Tenants should be cautious and aware that the site is littered with scam ads, drawings people in advertising notoriously low rental rates. A few of our own ads have fallen victim as scammers will pull the information from our property and list it for hundreds less than our advertised price. They then instruct tenants to send them a deposit and/or rent, then disappear and the tenant is left without a rental home.
A few things to look for when replying to an add include: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is! Google the address of the property to compare rental rates. If you find the listing on another website with a drastic price difference, contact the listing agent to confirm. If there is no local number on the advertisement or source to speak with the owner or agent directly be weary. Also, try to set a face-to-face meeting to view the property. Many scammers request that tenants send their deposit abroad, which is another red flag.
If you find any suspicious advertisements, contact Craigslist immediately and flag the post. The best option is to email the link to a few friends and ask them to flag it to expedite the removal process. A few safety tips from Craigslist include:
You can sidestep would-be scammers by following these common-sense rules whenever using craigslist:
- DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON – follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.
- NEVER WIRE FUNDS VIA WESTERN UNION, MONEYGRAM or any other wire service – anyone who asks you to do so is likely a scammer.
- FAKE CASHIER CHECKS & MONEY ORDERS ARE COMMON, and BANKS WILL CASH THEM AND THEN HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE when the fake is discovered weeks later.
- CRAIGSLIST IS NOT INVOLVED IN ANY TRANSACTION, and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services, or offer “buyer protection” or “seller certification”
- NEVER GIVE OUT FINANCIAL INFORMATION (bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)
- AVOID DEALS INVOLVING SHIPPING OR ESCROW SERVICES and know that ONLY A SCAMMER WILL “GUARANTEE” YOUR TRANSACTION.
- DO NOT RENT HOUSING WITHOUT SEEING THE INTERIOR, OR PURCHASE EXPENSIVE ITEMS SIGHT-UNSEEN – in all likelihood that housing unit is not actually for rent and that cheap item does not exist.
- DO NOT SUBMIT TO CREDIT CHECKS OR BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR A JOB OR FOR HOUSING UNTIL YOU HAVE MET THE INTERVIEWER OR LANDLORD/AGENT IN PERSON.
Most scams involve one or more of the following:
- inquiry from someone far away, often in another country
- Western Union, Money Gram, cashier’s check, money order, shipping, escrow service, or a “guarantee”
- inability or refusal to meet face-to-face before consummating transaction