It all started when a nice gentleman called my office and asked me if the long-term rental 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 did 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.
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.
How I Handled a Craigslist Rental Scam
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.
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.
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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.