Even though it’s nothing new, we’ve recently started seeing a resurgence of reader e-mails asking if a really awesome-sounding rental listing on Craigslist might be a scam, so we figured it was time for a refresher course.The scammy listings are often for completely fictional homes and the sole intent of the posting is to either steal your identity or swindle you out of a “fee” for a credit check that will never actually occur.
So with that in mind, here are the warning signs to look for when trying to determine if a listing is bogus:
1. SOUNDS GOOD. WHERE IS IT AND WHERE ARE THE PHOTOS?
Most of the questionable listings readers have sent to us don’t immediately set off many alarm bells when you’re simply looking at the info on Craigslist.
For example, here is the full text for one recent listing:
$800 / 3br – 3 BR, 2.5 BA Home With Many Amenities
– 3 BR, 2.5 BA
– Brand new hardwood flooring on first floor, carpeting on second floor.
– Big kitchen with equipment and bar
– Wooden lot with a patio for sitting and grilling
– Master bedroom on first floor with high double vanity sinks, bath tub and separate shower
– Walk-in loft
– Washer/Dryer hookup in mudroom
– Formal dining room
– Excellent for roommates, couple, or family
– Great neighbors and superb HOA
– All features covered in rent
– Gigantic pool with swirly slide, kids water play area, work-out facility (all across the street)
– Pets OK
– No smoking in the house
This sounds like a pretty good deal. In many cities, $800/month for three bedrooms and 2.5 baths is a steal. We’ve also seen this same listing going for as low as $350/month in one city.
Regardless, the property has just about everything you’d need. So where are the photos to show off all these features? And where in Tampa is this place?
Of course, just because a listing lacks these photos and an address doesn’t mean it’s a scam, but much like people who refuse to post photos on their online dating profiles, it’s a justifiable cause for concern.
2. WHAT KIND OF A NAME IS “KYDIXOROROAQUEP”?
Since the listing doesn’t give a phone number, the only way to find out more is to contact the poster by e-mail. You can’t necessarily tell by e-mail posted on the listing page, but when the other person writes back and he’s using an e-mail that looks like it’s been through the consonant grinder — “kydixororaqep” is a name that was actually attached to one e-mail we saw — you’re likely dealing with someone using auto-generated e-mail accounts so as to make things harder to trace.
3. SERIOUSLY, YOU ONLY WANT $800/MONTH FOR ALL THAT?
As good as it sounded in the listing, the rental property only sounds better when “kydixororaqep” sends his reply.
We’ve seen the following reply sent to at least half a dozen Consumerist readers who inquired about apartments, all from different parts of the country:
Just to give you a little more information about the home, the water, trash
and garbage are paid by us. The security deposit can be paid in 2 installments if money is tight. (I know how that can be).
The house has a fenced in backyard and we do allow pets. The deposit per pet is a one time payment.
The house includes a washer and dryer, and we pay for lawn care so the renter does not have to cut the grass.
There is NO application fee (our company policy and guarantee).
Show me a landlord who is completely cool with paying the security deposit installments — and who also pays for everything, including the lawn maintenance — and I’ll show you someone who is probably trying to trick you out of some money.
Everything about this listing is made to appeal to as many people as possible, in the hopes of victimizing as many people as possible.
4. WHAT’S THIS ABOUT A CREDIT CHECK?
The e-mail from kydixororaqep continues:
I will be happy to show the house at an agreed upon time and date but I do require that all applicants and additional renters who will be living in the home complete a free credit report to ensure their eligibility.
I have so many people apply for homes that I have to make sure they are qualified renters before I show the property.
This ensures neither of us will be wasting our time.
It is okay if you have bad credit (trust me). We just check to make sure that you don’t have several evictions on your record. (We won’t rent if you have 3 or more evictions on your record)
Credit checks for rental properties are certainly not unheard of, but again, the e-mails assurance that it’s okay if you have bad credit (and apparently up to two previous evictions) is just dandy… that’s an indicator that this “landlord” is just trying to prey on people with substandard credit in need of a place to live.
5. SO WHERE IS THIS PLACE AGAIN?
You may have noticed that you’re now through a Craigslist posting an e-mail without kydixororaqep ever mentioning the address of this affordable, luxurious home.
He explains that here:
I also had to recently stop giving out the exact address of rental properties before I am able to show them because last time I did that the house was vandalized (I will be glad to send you the address right after your reply) I assure you though that this is a very safe neighborhood. I actually lived in this home for 2 years (very cozy).
As soon as you can, please click the link below and go to the secure website to complete the free credit report (takes about 30 seconds)
Once you complete, I’ll call you once I receive the information from the credit company (very quickly usually).
This is just utter nonsense. Yes, vandals do attack vacant homes, but we’ve never heard of packs of juvenile delinquents scanning through ads on Craigslist for street addresses of rental properties that may or may not currently be occupied.
There are millions of homes in North America for sale or rent with their addresses listed on Craigslist, Zillow, and countless other sites. And yet, most of them do not become a target for spray-paint toting hooligans and nogoodniks.