The number of real estate scams is continuing to grow on free classified sites, with the majority of victims falling foul of rental scams. One website in particular – Craigslist – has been singled out by housing experts for the number of scammers operating there.
A recent case in Lynchburg, Virginia, first reported by AOL Real Estate, has highlighted the continuing prevalence of this problem. Having spotted what looked like the ideal home to rent on Craigslist, a couple from the town wired the ‘landlord’ $1,000 as a deposit on the home, before receiving the keys and moving in a few days later.
Imagine their shock to discover the police arriving at their doorstep a couple of days later, asking them what they were doing in the home. As it turns out, while the home was indeed up for rent, the so-called ‘landlord’ the couple handed over the cash to had absolutely no claim on the property whatsoever. It seems that he spotted a home for rent, somehow got hold of a pair of keys, then reposted the ad on Craigslist with his own contact details.
The Better Business Bureau’s Janet Hart told AOL Real Estate that real estate scams on Craigslist are especially prevalent, and so anyone searching for a home on the site needs to take extra care not to become the next victim.
Hart explained that selling or renting ‘fake’ homes was one of the most popular scams being employed these days. Because of this, Hart stresses that people should never wire any money unless it is being sent to a reputable organization.
Experts also suggest that performing a little more research can help people to avoid these kinds of scams. A quick Google of the property’s details will reveal if the home has been posted online elsewhere. If the home seems to pop up in more than one or two places, then this should serve as a warning.
Rental scams are actually working both sides of the street, scamming renters and landlords alike, as well as conventional rental properties and vacation rental properties. It's a mess.