It's the oldest scam in the books, at least some days it certainly feels that way! Scammers find homes listed FOR SALE on legitimate websites, scrape the information and photos, and repost on Craiglist (and other similar sites) as FOR RENT with fake contact information.
What's the old saying... "oldie but goodie"? The scammers' goal is to talk an unsuspecting renter into paying the deposit and/or first month's rent for the keys to the home, then they disappear with the money never to be heard from again. And when the renter shows up to take possession of the home, they discover that it was a con, and they are now out the money they paid. This scam has continued for so many years because it works; if the scam didn't work, and there was no money to be had, the scammers would move on to the next ploy. But unfortunately, this particular scheme continues to be profitable for them.
Attention Listing Agents
You should frequently check the internet for fake listings about the properties you have listed. It's easy... just Google the property address. If your listing shows up for rent on a site like Craigslist or anyplace else you or your broker have not authorized, take the following actions:
- Contact Craigslist (or other website) immediately to report the scam and ask for the post to be removed. Unfortuantely, there isn't a whole lot they can do, besides remove the post and ban the profile that posted it. Experience teaches us that the scammers will simply create a new profile and continue on with their deception, so it's kind of like playing whack-a-mole to keep the fake listings removed.
- Contact your local police department (via their non-emergency number). Since most of these scammers are not likely located within your jurisdiction, there is only so much the local police can do besides take a statement, but it is still good to make the report.
- If you wish to take it to the next level, you can report the incident to the FBI, since their jurisdiction does cross state lines (assuming the scammer is even located in the country). The more reports and information the authorities have, the more it may help them build a case against the scammer IF they are ever identified.
And just because you found and removed the fake ad once, doesn't mean your listing won't be targeted again. You should make it a part of your regular routine to search your listing addresses on the internet, so that you can nip the fake ads in the bud whenever possible.