How You Can Avoid Falling Victim to Craigslist Scams
COACHELLA VALLEY--Millions of people are turning to websites like Craigslist to find all sorts of deals. But fraudulent postings can trick potential tenants into a deal that's too good to be true.
It's hard to resist a good deal especially when it comes to paying rent and con-artists know it. They often use Craigslist to make a quick buck leaving unsuspecting renters out hundreds of dollars.
It's the latest trend in housing rip-offs. Scam artists take real housing listings, copy the information and post them on Craigslist at a fraction of the price. It's happening everyday and all across the country.The Coachella Valley is no exception. One almost victim of this Craigslist scam, who we'll call Jane, initially fell for a fraudulent ad.
"When I saw it online I thought the price was a bit low, but I was hoping there were good people out there that are just not trying to make a fortune off of a rental but trying to offer something at a decent price," an anonymous viewer and near victim of a Craigslist scam said.
If it seems too good to be true it probably is. A quick look at Craigslist and we found several fishy postings, in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage.
"I'd say we live in a time where people are desperate for a cheap rental and people are desperate to make a quick buck," said Jim Britt, Realtor for Windemere Real Estate.
Desperation that many of our viewers have run into. Pages of fake listings on Craigslist sent to us by you.
The owners say pretty much the same thing. They're out of the country on a mission in West Africa or Poland, and they need someone to look after their home. All you have to do is send them a $400 dollar security deposit and they'll send you the keys.
Realtor Jim Britt found his new place on Craiglist. It's a useful tool in his line of work as long as you know what to look for.
"Before you even start talking about money you need to see the property first," Britt said. "If the price is too low and it sounds almost too good to be true it probably is too good to be true and it might be a scam."
For many people the price is simply irresistible. Good enough for Jane to chase after. Fortunately she saw the warning signs before forking over any money.
"They just wanted me to pay the deposit and that's when I realized that it was a scam," Jane said.
We reached out to Craigslist. They sent us an email saying:
"Craigslist goes to great lengths to prevent scams from reaching users. Scams that do reach the site are usually quickly identified and removed by user flagging"
They also pointed us to their fraud protection page. They say the number one way to avoid scams is to "deal locally with folks you can meet in person." Follow this rule and they say you'll avoid 99 percent of scams.
They also tell users to email them if they suspect a Craigslist posting may be part of a scam. But our tenant did report the fraudulent listing to Craigslist. The ad was taken down but re-posted in another category.
"I've to this day not received any response from Craigslist," Jane said.
Renting a place without seeing it first seems silly to most people and we should know better by now. Scams like this are common. So remember, if it seems like an impossibly good deal, it probably is.