Local Man Brings Awareness to Craigslist Rental Scam - WBAY

Target 2 Consumer Alert

Local Man Brings Awareness to Craigslist Rental Scam

Ashwaubenon -

It's another warning about using caution with deals you find on online, this time from a local man who thought he found a great place for his son to rent.

Lloyd Miller says he went on Craigslist and found what looked like a great deal on a rental in Ashwaubenon.

"Three bedroom to rent," said Miller.

Miller was told rent for this home was $750 a-month, and he was told he could secure the deal if he wired a $500 deposit.

His conversation with the man who claimed he owned the Ashwaubenon home was only through text messages and emails. 

The messages were coming from Nigeria.  The person claimed he was overseas "to help with an HIV prevention program and would be out of the country for four-five years."

Miller went to check out the home in person.

"Now this house was $750 a-month. It's got a nice pool in the backyard and it's in a nice neighborhood and I'm thinking, 'something is wrong here,'" said Miller.

Then Miller met the actual owner--who was not in Nigeria, but instead in the backyard.  The owner said the home wasn't for rent--it was for sale.

"I talked to the owner and at that point, I knew this guy (the Craigslist poster) was just running a scam," said Miller.

The Federal Trade Commission says it's a common online rental scheme. Con-artists essentially hijack a real rental, or as in this case, a home that's up for sale.  They pose as the owner to get renter's money before the victim finds out it's a scam.

Jill Dickson of Coldwell Banker, the realtor listing the Ashwaubenon home, is well aware of bogus online rental ads.

"Based on the amount of listings I have every month, I would say we probably get three-to-four listings a-month that are getting this happening to them," said Dickson. "And I can only imagine in the scope of the whole real estate market how many other agents are dealing with it."

She says this type of scam is nothing new.

"When I sold my home two or three years ago, it happened to me personally. So, I know it's been happening for a few years," said Dickson. "People, they're very smart. What they're doing is looking up properties, finding tax bills, finding owners' names, then they're taking the owner's name and making a fake email account."

Dickson has this advice for the real home owners:

"I'm telling people to respond to those Craigslist posts, saying 'we know you're a scam, we've identified you as potential scam, we want you to take this down or we're going to contact police,'" said Dickson. "That seems to have them take them down with in a couple of days."

In this case the bogus rental was taken off Craigslist.

Both the home owner and Miller contacted police.

Now Miller wants others to be warned if they're hunting for a rental online.

"I think it's terrible that people are out there, trying to scam families that probably don't have an extra $700 laying around," he said.

This month, Western Union and the Better Business Bureau launched a joint effort to promote awareness of these type of online rental schemes.

Here are red flags for renters:

  • You're asked to wire money. That's the same as sending cash. Once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
  • You never meet the owner in person or they say they're overseas. It's never good idea to send money to someone you've never met in person.

If you have lost money, report it to police. However, they tell Target 2 it's tough to get your money back since these schemes are usually based overseas.

Here are some helpful links to report online fraud:

Filing a complaint with the IC3: http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

Filing a complaint with the FTC: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

Western Union Stop Fraud: http://www.westernunion.com/stopfraud




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