Craigslist can be an important vehicle, both for real estate agents who are marketing properties, and for prospective buyers or renters who are seeking them. But if a price advertised on Craigslist seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Thanks to a wary prospective tenant, I recently learned that one of my for-sale listings had been fraudulently misappropriated by someone who posed as me and offered it for rent on Craigslist at a ridiculously low price, well below the market rents for comparable homes in the area. The scammer, who said that he/she is an engineer currently working in Lagos, Nigeria, hoped to convince this consumer–and perhaps untold others–to wire deposit monies to secure the rental. Those funds would have disappeared into a black hole, of course, and the Craigslist poser would have never been heard from again.
I did some checking, and learned that this same scam has been perpetrated on at least four other local agents in the last month alone. In each case, the fraud was immediately reported to Craigslist, and the offending ads were removed.
How can you protect yourself from being fleeced by an impostor?
* If you’re interested in seeing a home or apartment for rent or for purchase, call the listing agent or seller/landlord directly (or call your buyer’s agent, if you have one).
* Be suspicious if the person offering the property wants to communicate only via Email, does not provide a phone number, and seems to dodge requests for you to actually get inside of the property
* Do a drive-by, if you can. If there is a real estate agency sign in front of the home, call that number and ask if the property is for sale or for rent.
* If you’re relocating from another state, secure the services of a reputable buyer’s agent who can personally investigate legitimate properties for you. You may not have to pay a fee, but even if you do, it will be a worthwhile investment, ensuring that you will be protected from paying too much, or even worse: paying for something that you’ll never receive.
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