(Aug. 16, 2019) Potential renters should beware of possible scams when searching for rental properties online, and specifically, in many cases when searching on craigslist.com.
The scam artist utilizes this site to advertise a local property, and goes as far as creating a fake email address and/or website in the name of a local realtor.
The scam artist will then accept deposits on the property but that money is lost to the consumer as the property is not actually for rent, and the scam artist has no ownership in the property and no right to advertise the property for rent.
Locally, this has occurred most recently on a property that was actively listed for sale in Berlin.
The scam artist listed the house as being available for rent, with a lengthy reason as to why they had decided to rent the house and take it off the active market for sale.
One clue in determining if a rental is legitimate when searching online ties back to the old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true…”, in most of these scam cases, the advertised rental rate is well below the going rate for similar properties to entice people.
In this particular instance, the Berlin police were notified of the scam, and they in turn instructed the local realtor to “spread the word” about the fraud.
The local realtor also had to contact the online email service provider to instruct them that the email address was tied to fraudulent activity and request that they disable the email address.
“This sort of scam is particularly frustrating (and hard to stop) because the perpetrators could be anywhere,” said Jeff Karburg, director of the Identity Theft Program with the Office of the Attorney General. “Craigslist (and other online listing venues) have been fighting this for years.”
If you are interested in renting a property that you have found online, and if it references a local realtor’s name, the best way to ensure that it is legitimate is to look up the agent’s office number and location, compare the phone numbers, and make sure you are calling the real estate office/agent direct.
– Lauren Bunting is an Associate Broker with Bunting Realty, Inc. in Berlin.