Craigslist rental scam lists local houses for sale
WEST FARGO - It seems too good to be true, a three-bedroom rental home with a price tag of $800 a month.
And, according to Kristi Hardi, director of Park Co. Realtors, it is.
For the past few years, the listings for Park Co. Realtors have been part of a Craigslist rental scam that originates from various locations.
"Usually about two or three of our listings are found on Craigslist for rent," Hardi said. "The listings are these incredible too-good-to-pass-up prices, and people fall for it."
Park Co. Realtors is a local company that specializes in buying and selling homes for private owners in North Dakota and Minnesota. They do not have a rentals department.
"We get about two phone calls a day (about rental homes) lately," Hardi said. "Typically, we explain to them that the home is for sale, not rent, and that the listing they saw was a fake."
The scam involves getting rental seekers to wire down-payments in order to receive the keys to the home.
"I believe the scam is coming out of Nigeria now," Hardi said. "They go on our website and take the house information and pictures, then post them to Craigslist as rentals. As far as I know, none of our clients are posting on any other sites."
The scam also targets other local realty companies in town.
But, those responsible for the fake postings are getting more complex by taking the seller's information and creating fake email addresses.
"Depending on what people are putting out there information wise, they (the scammers) can track a landline phone number or even some cell numbers," Sgt. Greg Warren of West Fargo police said. "They can do searches on us and get a lot of information, addresses, names, even Social Security numbers. They have certainly targeted the older and retired population. They are good at what they do."
One of Park Co.'s clients, who was supposed to remain anonymous during the selling of her home, received phone calls about her renting fees.
"It really scared her. She's an older lady, but she couldn't understand where they would have gotten her name," Hardi said. "We can't do anything about the listings really except report them when they are brought to our attention."
Hardi said it can take as long as three days for the fake postings to come down.
"Our postings have a very official look to them with our logo," she said. "Usually, if the deal looks too good to be true, then it is. I just think rental seekers should be aware that this is happening. We don't know of anyone who has fallen for the scam yet, but it's good to get the information out there."
To avoid falling for this and scams like it, Hardi suggests that people try driving by a location to see if it is for rent.
"Usually, it will have a sign that will say if it's for sale or for rent."
Another way to avoid it is to simply type the address into a search engine and check for duplicate listings.
"The biggest concern is when someone wants you to wire them money prior," Warren said. "Once money is wired, it can be sent anywhere. We've had people out thousands of dollars, but once it ends up in Nigeria, there isn't anything we can do about it."