They’re everywhere.. the scammers.
And the facelessness of the internet makes scamming so much easier. They can’t be identified and they don’t have to look you in the eye. Scamming has become completely non-emotional.
I became emotional, however, when I found out that one of our prospective tenants had been scammed by a fake ad for one of our houses. I answered the phone and found myself talking to a woman who was very distraught. She told me that she had sent in her first month’s rent, yet noticed someone was now living in “her” house.
It was quite a bizarre conversation, as this was the first time I had it. Unfortunately, it has happened again.. and again.
The scammers we continue to deal with troll Craigslist. I love Craigslist. We use it all the time for marketing our properties. I still don’t understand how they make money as it’s free to use for the seller and free to use, as well, for the consumer. But that’s not my point here. I just want you to know that I have no complaints with Craigslist.
We post legitimate ads there for properties we wish to rent out. We give all necessary information about the property including a link to our website and our office phone number. When a prospect sees our ad and is interested, they can go to our website for more information, simply call our office to confirm that it’s still available, and schedule a time to view the property. Pretty standard stuff.
Now, here’s how the scam happens.. Someone copies most of the important information from our ad, including the photos we’ve uploaded, and lists it again on Craigslist. They use no website and change the phone number from ours to theirs. Typically, these scammers list properties at amazingly low, low prices. For example, a property we may be renting for $1200, they will show for $700. Naturally, the great house in a wonderful neighborhood is super attractive to someone looking for a home.
But here’s what I don’t understand. The scammer has no way to show the property and they tell the caller that they must send certified funds or money order (cash) before they can see the property. Somehow, they get people to send cash without (a) ever seeing inside the property or (b) ever meeting the landlord in person.
And so I’d like to share a VERY easy way to avoid being scammed. ALWAYS see the house first, inside and out. ALWAYS talk to the responsible party face to face.
These scammers never present themselves as a company, that would be too easy to check out online. ALWAYS check out any company you plan to do business with, by the way. Now, since they’re not a company but an individual, they will give all kinds of excuses about why they can’t get the keys to you and why you must first send in your money. These, trust me on this, are lies. If someone has a property they want to lease out, they will have someone local who can show it. Bottom line, there are procedures that anyone legitimate is going to follow, including letting you look at something before you “buy” it.
Please note: NEVER GIVE ANYONE MONEY BEFORE YOU KNOW WHO THEY ARE AND HAVE SOMETHING IN WRITING. We lease out properties every month. Before you give us money, you will have seen the property. Then, you pay an application fee when you turn in your completed application. If you are approved for the property, you may then put down a deposit, in our office where you also receive a receipt, or you may simply come to the office with the deposit and first month’s rent, sign the contracts, get the keys and move in.
Never give money to a person you don’t know. SCAMMERS CANNOT SCAM UNLESS YOU COOPERATE WITH THEM.
I wish this would never happen to another person due to one of our ads, but I have no doubt that it will. As long as there are legitimate businesses, there will be scams. Please, don’t be a victim.