Craigslist is a popular place to go for people looking for a home to rent.  It is also a popular place for scammers to place phony ads to cheat unsuspecting victims.  Scammers place phony listings and trick people into wiring money as a security deposit or rent for the home or apartment rental before the victim finds out that the scammer does not own the home.  It is a simple matter for a scammer to copy and paste a legitimate real estate advertisement or listing into the scammer’s Craigslist ad, often indicating a temptingly low rent. Unfortunately, once the victim finds out that the scammer never owned the property and the ad was a scam, it is too late to get his or her money back.  Recently in San Diego, however, a new variation on the scam has turned up that involves the targeted victim of the scam being told the code used to unlock the front door to the home in order to permit the targeted victim to actually get access to the empty home which makes the listing appear much more legitimate.

TIPS

The vast majority of the listings on Craigslist are legitimate, but you only have to be cheated once to feel the pain.  When the rent looks too good to be true, you should immediately be skeptical.  When the owner is out of the country and wants you to wire money, you should be even more skeptical and if by out of the country we mean Nigeria or Russia, you should really be skeptical.  Scammers prefer people to wire money because unlike a check or a credit card payment, it is almost impossible to stop payment or get the money back.

If you are considering responding to a rental advertisement on Craigslist, confirm that the person who says he or she is the owner by going to the tax assessors listings for the city or town where the property is located. This information is readily which available online.  If the names don’t match, that is a recipe for disaster.  Also, go on line and see if you can find a duplicate listing for the home advertised on Craigslist.

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