A common scam circulating on Craigslist is the rental property scam.  Thieves take the pictures of a property currently on the market and then re-market it on Craigslist (or other websites) as a rental.  The thief then steals the prospective tenant’s money.

The common story begins with the property owner that had to leave the country on an emergency mission and the property needs to be rented.  The thief takes the property information and photos directly from a listing agent (Realtor.com or REMAX.com or any site that “syndicates/shares” the photos) and re-posts them on Craigslist.

The typical ad has a picture with a phone number to call for a showing.  Prospective tenants call the phone number and the thief usually gives you the address and tells you to drive by.  The thief may show the property or send pictures and then pressure prospective tenants to pay (or wire) the deposit to reserve the property since the rental market is tight and the property will rent quickly.  The rental price is usually very low and the thief claims it is a “great deal”.  BEWARE!


Do your homework and look out for the signs such as “out of area phone number” or “wire the money” or “cash only”.  Reputable parties usually use a well-known local company or the property owner’s name to accept deposits.  When renting a property, a personal check, money order or cashiers check is usually sufficient and should be made out to a property management company, if not-BEWARE!


How can you as a tenant protect yourself?  Call a local Realtor or property management company to verify that the property is available for rent.  Most likely, the property is FOR SALE, not for rent.  Most property management companies know what properties are for rent and the employees/owners know each other.  If you meet at the property, make sure you get a business card and license plate number of the person’s vehicle.  You should take pictures of the person or see some sort of identification to verify that they own or manage the property.  You should sign the lease at the property manager’s office or other location where other people know the owner/landlord (a local bank or real estate office is good).

As a real estate agent (Realtor), you should watermark your photos with the address or company name or statement “Not For Rent”.  Post a sign near the entrance of the property “Not For Rent” or agent contact info.

How can you protect yourself as a FSBO/FRBO of a property that is currently for sale or for rent?  Owners should post on reputable websites.  All photos should have a watermark with your phone number or other contact information.

If you have been scammed, contact the local police department and the FBI Internet Crimes unit.