Landlording & Rental Properties

My Property Fell Prey to a Craigslist Rental Scam (Here’s How I Handled It!)

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties
61 Articles Written
craigslist_rental_scam

Recently, a nice gentleman called my office and asked me if the long term rental which was being advertised on Craigslist was legitimate or not. I explained to the gentleman I had no idea what he was talking about and that my company does not advertise anything on Craigslist. He went on to tell me what the ad said and even showed me where I could view it for myself.

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When I went on Craigslist, I was shocked to find that a rental house my wife and I owned was being advertised on Craigslist. A scam artist was offering the house for $1,000 a month (we rent the house out for $2,800 a month). He wrote in the article that he received a really nice promotion at work, and he was not going to be back in Orlando for a couple years. He wanted his good fortune of landing such a good promotion to help another family out… what a joke.

Here is how I protected myself when one of our homes was being offered as a scam on Craigslist.

Related: Another Day, Another Real Estate Scammer Busted: $20M Scam Shut Down!

How I Handled a Craigslist Rental Scam

Contacted Police

After finding the advertisement online, I quickly called the local police department to file a report. An officer came out to the rental property to write a report, but he told me other than filing a report, there was little to nothing he could do. While I was filling out the report with the officer, two potential renters drove up and asked if the house was still for rent for $1,000 a month. I told them the house was for rent, but not for $1,000.

Tried to Contact Craigslist

I looked all over the Craigslist website to find a customer service number to have the ad removed, but all I could find was a general email address. I also noticed where you can go in and mark any ad as SPAM or “inaccurate,” which I did, but the response to the ad removal was very slow.

Put Up a Legitimate Advertisement on Craigslist

I put up my own offer on Craigslist using the exact same pictures the scam artist was using. In the description, I said that this house is being offered by a scam artist for $1,000 a month, but the real rental value is $2,800 a month. I asked for people to please call the owner for a viewing, and then I left my cell phone number.

Put a “For Rent” Sign in the Yard

I put a “For Rent” sign in the yard with big bold letters stating the monthly rental amount plus my local phone number. I also put up a sign on the front and side door explaining that this house is not being advertised on Craigslist for $1,000 a month and that if a potential renter saw that advertisement, it was a scam.

Notified My Neighbors

I am really lucky that I have a lot of great neighbors, and I called each of them to explain the situation and ask them if any potential renters inquired about the property to please let those people know that if they saw the advertisement on Craigslist that it was a scam.

Related: Real Estate Gurus Promoting Other Guru Courses and Events – a Scam?

What I Learned

All in all, I learned a couple of things through this ordeal.

  • Craigslist Can Drive Potential Renters: I was actually surprised at how many people came by to see the house and told me or my neighbors that they saw the house advertised on Craigslist.
  • Buyer Beware: I found that there is very little that is being done to stop these types of scams from going on now or in the future. The police told me up front that the person doing this is probably not from the area, and they are not going to put a lot of resources into catching the scam artist. In addition, they told me that the buyer must beware, especially when they are purchasing something on Craigslist.
  • Craigslist is No Help: I actually kept going on Craigslist for two weeks, flagging new ads that the scam artist was putting up. You would think after the same ad got flagged ten times, someone might look into it.

All in all, I was lucky no one actually got scammed, and I found a great family to rent our house to. But when you are a man who prides himself in treating people fairly and being very ethical, it is a bit disturbing to see one of the rental houses you own be used by a scam artist to dupe people out of their money.

Have you ever heard of this scam before? How would you have handled it?

Leave your comments and stories below!

Trey Duling is the President/CEO of OrlandoVacation.com, a large travel company specializing in Florida getaways. He has over 27 years of experience in the area, owning multiple companies that market to guests looking for an Orlando vacation. His main focus is marketing hotels and short-term vacation rentals near Disney World, with ample expertise as the largest authorized ticket seller for the large attractions in Orlando.
    Stephanie
    Replied over 4 years ago
    The real problem is 2-fold. 1. So many people are trusting and gullible. Craigslist makes it clear they shouldn’t rent from someone or send money without a face to face meeting and NEVER wire money to ANYONE you don’t know. (The police told scammed renters of mine the same thing.) 2. With Craigslist’s policies and guidelines, there is no reason they should even allow rentals on their site! They do not verify anyone or anything and are impossible to work with on this matter. As long as people go to them to find renters, they will stay in the business. If they really want to resurrect their image, they should stop allowing postings for rentals. I think the continued bad press they are getting on this issue (especially in the summer months with vacation rental scams) is making them the “back alley” of online classified listing services! Soon no one will trust Craigslist anymore! My own saga is listed in the comments and quoted here: “Their motivation is short term gain. They get potential renters to pay a deposit (usually wire transfer) and promise to meet them at the house or give them entry info (send a key or code) after final or first month’s rent. Then the listing on Craigslist disappears, along with the potential renter’s money. I know this because it has happened with my property 4 times in the last 6 months. Craigslist has been NO help. The only thing that has helped is having my own listing with the words “SCAM ALERT” in red over the picture.”
    Jane
    Replied over 3 years ago
    This happened to us today. While cleaning up the yard at the rental, my husband had two different people come by because of a bogus Craigslist ad. I got on Craigslist, and reported, as well as followed your instructions to put in an ad just like it – with the correct information. In short order, both ads were removed, which is fine with me. I just want to thank you for posting this. You gave directions of what to do better than anywhere else I found. We plan on doing the sign, and notices on the doors as well, just in case some locksmith decides to change the new locks we just put on for the crooks!
    Joan
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Police departments have cyber crimes departments to report these scams (usually out of Africa) to.
    Michelle
    Replied about 3 years ago
    I have a question, I filled out a rental app for a house I was interested in. I paid the application fee $100 and constantly texted the owner. But it turned out the person I was texting wasn’t the owner and the house wasn’t for rent. I found out the person’s name and was wondering if I can have them arrested. I got my money back from paypal but I still want them punished. Can I have them arrested?
    Andre Jose
    Replied 6 months ago
    HELL YEAH!!! Why on earth wouldn't you have them arrested? Or perhaps you'd rather they swindle other people out of their hard earned money. You're everything wrong with this country.
    Michelle
    Replied about 3 years ago
    I have a question, I filled out a rental app for a house I was interested in. I paid the application fee $100 and constantly texted the owner. But it turned out the person I was texting wasn’t the owner and the house wasn’t for rent. I found out the person’s name and was wondering if I can have them arrested. I got my money back from paypal but I still want them punished. Can I have them arrested?
    roger
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Saw this: https://www.reddit.com/r/RealEstate/comments/7h4pvp/my_home_was_listed_on_craigslist_for_rent_scam/ The fastest way I’ve found to deal with these is to do this: Go here: https://sfbay.craigslist.org/contact Click on law enforcement, legal, then contact us. Fill out the form, include the post ID and link to the post. Tell them it is a copyright violation because you own the rights to the photos and the scammer is using them without your permission and that you demand the pictures and the post be removed immediately. It works faster than any other reporting mechanism I’ve found.
    Bill Dakelski
    Replied about 3 years ago
    This happened to me as a landlord, I did everything the author suggested, and finally I realized the the best thing to do is ask everyone who calls or comes by to flag the CL listing, it is the only way to get rid of it and worked for me.
    Nancy
    Replied over 2 years ago
    As another commenter mentioned, this method seemed to work pretty fast in terms of getting the Craiglist ad pulled down quickly: Go to: craigslist.org/contact Click on law enforcement, legal, then contact us. Fill out the form, include the post ID and link to the post. Tell them it is a copyright violation because you own the rights to the photos and the scammer is using them without your permission and that you demand the pictures and the post be removed immediately. It works faster than any other reporting mechanism I’ve found.
    Account Closed
    Replied 6 months ago
    This does work, but in my experience so far takes at the very least, 12 hours. Screenshot the scam ad for later use. Post ID is more important than URL. Good luck!
    Amie Lerch from Richland, Washington
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Thanks Nancy! That works great.
    Ray R. Property Manager from Riverside, CA
    Replied 12 months ago
    We just had 3 people scammed at our apartments in Riverside CA. One young couple even showed up with a moving van. The most recent was today, so I got interested in what I can do to prevent this wrongness. The scammer is hitting the most vulnerable, looking for a deal below market. The one couple I got details on, who showed up with a moving van, I think 20 & 19, they barely getting by, and could not afford our real rental price. My take away after reading multiple threads on Scams: 1. Watermark with a tel. # all my pictures. What a pain if you have lots of pictures... 2. In Google you can set up alerts for your address 3. In Craigslist you can set up alerts on your address 4. Police and FBI usually won't do much. I do plan on calling tomorrow, but I am not expecting much. 5. Signs saying your units empty can cause more problems 6. Using your real address is a mixed bag. 7. WIth Craigslist, to get the adv. removed, claim copyright violation. 8. Alarms for empty units with remote access is a great idea. 9. Scammers are also after personal information, for identity theft. 10. Scammers are often out of country. 11. Craigslist if you delete it, will only delete it on your computer unless they get multiple complaints. Craigslist is very slow to react. 12. I wonder if something can be done with reverse image search, and setting up an alert. I am worried about my inbox getting buried with alerts, but it's worth a try.
    Andre Jose
    Replied 6 months ago
    Why hasn't there been a class action lawsuit against craigslist? I'd rather see it bankrupt and shut down than continue to enable fraud! How many thousands of hardworking people have lost millions of dollars? Perhaps you should have to provide a valid drivers license or a linked bank account to be able to post a listing like an automobile or a rental house. Then there would be a solid paper train to a REAL person. eBay and PayPal have solid methodologies in place to protect consumers, it looks to me like craigslist is just... lazy.
    Account Closed
    Replied 6 months ago
    Our home is being regularly listed as a "vacation rental" (we live at the beach) and have people show up at our door ready to rent after being scammed out of thousands of dollars (including "refundable deposit"). The "contracts" have our actual names and address on it, they text with the scammers, we have bank account numbers and for whatever reason, law enforcement is unable (unwilling?) to catch them. I post my own "SCAM ALERT" ads for our area and I think it has helped, as well as staying on top of searching craigslist and having all of my friends flag what I find as quickly as I can. It still takes at least a day to get it removed. The fact that they are using our names seems to me to be another level of crime. Identity theft at least? Anyway, Craigslist is really the place of focus for us at this point, and i believe there are already many lawsuits against them. This is one that could be quite large if we were organized enough, and maybe even having that rental category removed. Needless to say, as of right now in 2020, we are very much on our own in solving this issue.