The Craigslist scams that plagued our industry after the 2008 crash never truly vanished. Recently however they appear to be bolder and more abundant than ever.
The unprecedented pent-up demand for housing accompanied by the despair many people are feeling due to the lack of housing inventory is causing otherwise smart people to give in to desperation. Victims are not only giving money but unwittingly divulging their personally identifiable information to cyber thieves. It’s dangerous and I think we are in a unique position to help.
I received a call just last week from a young lady who saw a home for rent (by owner) on Craigslist, a home that is listed for sale on our MLS. She contacted who she thought was the owner. In turn, he sent her an application and accidentally sent her a PDF document with a long list of others that had applied. There were addresses, birth dates, social security numbers etc. of unwitting applicants. This collected data is more valuable to cyber thieves than the actual application and deposit money they pilfer.
I remember years ago when someone was going around using my name and my listings with the hope of collecting rents and application fees (see https://www.inman.com/2013/05/02/sophisticated-zillow-scam-puts-nar-and-mls-on-alert/)
To this day I still don’t know if someone got scammed and or holds a grudge against me personally because of this false representation.
If you believe your properties have been targeted by scammers, report it to your local law enforcement agency and to the FTC . You should also contact the website where the ad was posted.
If you suspect a rental post is part of a scam on Craigslist, contact Craigslist directly and notify the FTC. If you speak to someone that has been defrauded by someone they met in person, encourage them to contact their local law enforcement agency.
As Realtors®, you can do your part to stop scams. Make sure you check online, via a search engine like Google, for the address, photos or descriptions of your properties being used elsewhere. You should also have this discussion with your clients, so they are aware and paying attention as well.
Please take some time to check out the Craigslist guide to recognizing scams and the articles from the PAR Just Listed archives below and make sure that you are keeping us updated at PMAR (emailing AnnMarie will be your best bet).
I do believe collectively as a community we can make a difference. Stay vigilant and stay well!
PMAR MLS Committee Chair