National Rental Scam on Listed Properties
(Information Provided by BAREIS)
There is a rental scam taking place nationally in which listed properties are advertised on Craigslist and other online classified services for rent, when the property is not for rent at all. The ads run for a very brief period of time.
The ads typically say something like “A spouse’s sickness and a move to West Africa has made it difficult for me to rent my home (in some wonderful neighborhood)….and with all kinds of poorly written bizarre information. The property is for rent at an extremely discounted price. All of a sudden people start showing up at your listing to check it out, and may disturb your seller.
When the unsuspecting general public responds to the ad, the email response for the advertiser gives additional information on the property, and requests a deposit through a wire transfer service. The renters might sometimes be asked to fill out credit applications asking for personal information like credit history, social security numbers, and work history. This information is then used to commit identity fraud and steal even more money from their victims.
Guidelines for the general public to avoid being victimized:
– Only deal with landlords or renters who are local
– Be suspicious if you’re asked to only use a wire transfer service
– Beware of e-mail correspondence from the “landlord” that’s written in poor or broken English
– Research the average rental rates in that area and be suspicious if the rate is significantly lower
– Don’t give out personal information, like social security, bank account, or credit card numbers
– This is an international scam originating in Nigeria, although local scammers may pick up on the scheme. – This is not just happening in your home town.
The FBI (in charge of internet scams and fraud) has issued scam alerts and press releases dealing with the issue. A full description of the scam is available on the FBI site at by clicking here.
Here is a link to report internet crime by clicking here.
They are scraping information from internet sites and from other sites in which listings are posted.
The perpetuators of the scam are using “spoofed” email addresses that would make it appear they are local. You do not have the ability to trace them unless you are a professional in computer forensics.
What can you do if one of your properties is the subject of the scam?
– Recognize that this is a national issue and not just a local one. Contact the FBI, The State Attorney General’s Office, the County District Attorney.
FBI – (707) 542-1952
State Attorney General Office – (800) 952-5225
Sonoma County District Attorney – (707) 565-2011
– File a police report.
These are the entities charged with investigating and prosecuting consumer fraud.
How can you protect your listings from being a part of the scam?
– Some brokers have removed the address of their listings on the internet. While this hides the address from the scammers, both the seller and the buying public could be disadvantaged.
– Monitor classified advertising internet sites like Craigslist to watch for ads using your listing information “for rent”.
– Put a “NOT FOR RENT” rider on your signs.