Fake Craigslist Houses for Rent
Houses for Rent on Craigslist
Craigslist Homes for Rent – Don’t Let Them Fool You!
On any given day, it’s possible to search Craigslist for houses for rent by owner. Craigslist might just be one of the largest online search sites for rentals in any given area. However, some rentals on Craigslist appear too good to be true. And if that’s the case, it probably is just that, too good to be true, and there’s a good chance it’s a Craigslist real estate scam.
The internet has made it easier than ever for scammers to try and steal money (and maybe even the identities) of real people through fake house ads on Craigslist. Houses that are actually listed for sale have been found as rental scams on Craigslist, these are Craigslist scams when selling.
Common Rental Scams on Craigslist
How do Craigslist Rental Scams Work?
Craigslist rental scams typically include houses for rent and apartments for rent. But, they aren’t really for rent. The scammers will first search online for vacant houses that are listed for sale. Then they will use a few of the pictures that are already posted online of the house or condo that is truly for sale, and post it as a house or apartment for rent on Craigslist. These scammers don’t own the house, have never been to the house, and don’t even have the keys…because they don’t really own it! But it’s oh so easy to use the same pictures of an empty house and make it look like it really could be available for rent. These scammers are sneaky… and smart… and know exactly what they are doing to steal money from innocent people who are truly looking for a place to rent. And there’s no real way to know where these scammers are actually located, which makes it even more difficult to try and track them down.
Here’s an example: A Craiglist post advertised a single family home in Frederick, Maryland. The homeowners had actually put the house up for sale through a REALTOR®. It didn’t take long for a scammer to steal the information from the listing, including a picture, and turn it into a fake Craigslist ad.
Here’s the Fake House Ad on Craigslist:
$850 / 1848ft2 – One of the most beautiful home (Frederick, MD)
0BR / 2Ba 1848ft2
cats are OK – purrr
dogs are OK – wooof
Affordable & Available home is ready to go. With a covered front porch and large living space, this is a great project to make your own or maybe your first investment. Close to an area park, shopping and restaurants, you’ll like the location too!
Listing ID: 0742136XX. Please contact with us for more details. Call now- (917) 905- (remainder of the phone number has been intentionally deleted for purposes of this blog post). I wantjust serious inquiries to take over payments a R,en,t to 0,wn property. Bad or poor credit no problem. Generally immediate move in is possible.
Here’s the REAL Details for This Same House:
3 bedrooms / 2 baths. Property has no utilities turned on. Buyer is responsible for turning on utilities for inspections etc. Property sold AS IS. Large four level split with attached deck and gazebo. Situated on a corner lot and just under 1 acre of land. Home needs some TLC to make all your own.
Here’s Where This Craigslist Scam Gets INTERESTING:
The house was actually under contract to be SOLD when it was found on Craigslist, and it really did SELL to new owners. It was never a rental to begin with. It was a house that was listed for sale by a REALTOR®. But because it had been vacant, the scammer was able to successfully use the same pictures and advertise it as being for rent, when it never was to begin with.
Craigslist Apartment Scams
Craigslist apartment scams are also prevalent. Here’s another real example: The apartment below was listed in 2 entirely different areas in Maryland! The Craigslist ads are identical. Who knows where else it might also be listed?!?
Here it is, Listed in Craigslist Baltimore:
$435 Bright and Spacious 2 Bedroom 2 Bath unit rent in Baltimore (Baltimore)
Bright and Spacious 2 Bedroom 2 Bath unit rent in Baltimore. New open kitchen, with granite counters, new cabinets and new light fixtures . Come home to all new renovations, brand new Central A/C and Heat, Washer and Dryer. walking distance to downtown shopping and restaurants. $465 RENT PER MONTH.New dishwasher. Updated bathrooms, new water heater, new A/C, newer appliances.SMOKING AND PETS ALLOWED. All updated. Ready for immediate move in, Maple Grove features Laundry facilities on site. Great area for restaurants, shopping, and schools. This beautiful 2 Bedroom 2 Bath, floor plans with nearly 875 sq.ft of living space, features new wood like flooring, granite countertops, multicolored backsplash, beautifully renovated, storage, natural light much more. You pay gas, electric, water/sewer- trash is included. All Ready!! JUST SERIOUS PERSON INQUIRES TEXT PLEASE::^^ XXXXXX^yahoo^com^. Thanks
Here it is Again, Listed in Craigslist Frederick:
$435 Bright and Spacious 2 Bedroom 2 Bath unit rent in Frederick (Frederick)
Bright and Spacious 2 Bedroom 2 Bath unit rent in Frederick. New open kitchen, with granite counters, new cabinets and new light fixtures . Come home to all new renovations, brand new Central A/C and Heat, Washer and Dryer. walking distance to downtown shopping and restaurants. $465 RENT PER MONTH.New dishwasher. Updated bathrooms, new water heater, new A/C, newer appliances.SMOKING AND PETS ALLOWED. All updated. Ready for immediate move in, Maple Grove features Laundry facilities on site. Great area for restaurants, shopping, and schools. This beautiful 2 Bedroom 2 Bath, floor plans with nearly 875 sq.ft of living space, features new wood like flooring, granite countertops, multicolored backsplash, beautifully renovated, storage, natural light much more. You pay gas, electric, water/sewer- trash is included. All Ready!! JUST SERIOUS PERSON INQUIRES TEXT PLEASE::^^ XXXXX^yahoo^com^. Thanks
How to Identify a Craigslist Housing Scam
Fake Rental Ads on Craigslist
If you’re looking for a place to rent on Craigslist, it’s important to know how to spot a rental scammer on Craigslist. There are common ways to spot a Craigslist scammer who wants to cheat you out of your money. Once you give them your money, it is gone, and there isn’t much you can do about it.
How to Spot a Rental Scammer on Craigslist:
Real estate scams on Craigslist are (unfortunately) often found. There are several “red flags” that are commonly found in the fake ads on Craigslist for houses and apartments for rent. Look for any of these common elements that are often included in fake Craigslist rentals:
– A Ridiculously Low Price on Craigslist
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is just that…. too good to be true. The first example above was “rent to own” for $850/month. Really? A single family house in Frederick? Huge red flag. You can’t even rent a condo for that price. If you’re lucky, you might find a room for rent, but certainly not a house.
The second example above was $435 / month, for 2 bedrooms and 2 baths! Again, completely unreasonable and another huge red flag.
– There’s No Exact Address Provided
Let’s face it, when landlords advertise their rentals online, they want you to know where it’s located, they want you to drive by to check out the exterior, the general location and the neighborhood. A Craigslist ad without an address is another huge red flag. Why wouldn’t they want you to know where it’s located? Some Craigslist ads included a map of a “general” location. How can you be sure it’s accurate? You can’t! Do you really want to contact someone who’s throwing up red flags?
– There’s More Than 1 Listing for Same Apartment… in Different Areas
A common example is the apartment rental listings above. Scammers will often times list the exact same vacant place for rent in multiple geographic areas on Craigslist. This increases their chances of scamming the most people out of money. After all, if you’re looking for a rental in one area, you might not be looking in those other areas, and they are less likely to get caught.
– The “Owner” Can’t Actually Meet You at the Listing So You Can See It in Person
Let’s say you contact the the person who put the ad on Craigslist, because you’re genuinely looking for a place to rent. A scammer will reply back to you saying something like, “I’m really sorry! I had to move for my Job and that’s why I’m renting out the house (or apartment) until my job sends me back sometime next year”.
Other scammers might say they can’t meet you at the property because they’re out of the country. Some will tell you to drive by the location and see the outside, but they can’t show you the inside for any number of reasons. If they can’t show you the inside, it’s because they don’t have access. It’s not because they are away.
– There’s a Sob Story Involved
When you contact a scammer who is advertising a fake rental on Craigslist, they might respond with some sort of sad story about their life. Some scammers will tell you there was a death in their family, and they need to rent the house or apartment as soon as possible so they can pay for the funeral. Or they might tell you a family member was in a bad accident, or is very sick, and they need to rent the place as soon as possible to pay medical bills. Don’t fall for those lies.
– You’re Required to Put Down Money Before You Have the Chance to See the Place
Legitimate rentals will require you to pay an application fee and/or credit check fee upfront. After you’re approved and you’re ready to sign the lease, you’ll then need to provide a security deposit (which is typically equivalent to 1 month’s rent), along with the first month’s rent. If you have pets, you might also need to pay a pet deposit.
If you’re asked to pay for anything other than an application fee and/or a credit check fee before even seeing the place or signing the lease, it’s most likely a scam. Being asked to Pay for anything else before signing the lease is highly suspicious.
– Improper Grammar and Punctuation
This is another huge red flag. It’s certainly easy to misspell words or use the wrong punctuation. But poor grammar, misspelled words and punctuation that doesn’t make sense are good signs a scammer has posted a fake rental on Craigslist.
Take a look again at the ad for the house above. What the heck is: R,en,t to 0,wn? Another sure red flag is: 0BR (Yes, it says zero bedrooms, really?) A 3rd red flag is: wantjust.
– Craigslist Rental App: Complete a Free Credit Application / Bad Credit is OK
Credit Applications Aren’t Free
It is completely reasonable and customary for a legitimate landlord or property manager to require a background check, employment verification, and a credit check. However, it’s never free. There is a fee for those checks. Anyone 18 and older who will be living in the property will be required to complete an application and pay the associated fee to have those checks done.
So if the Craigslist ad says they require “all applicants and additional renters who will be living in the home complete a FREE credit report to ensure their eligibility,” there’s a good chance it’s a scam.
Credit Really Does Matter
Beware if you see: “It is okay if you have bad credit (trust me)” in the Craigslist ad. While some landlords will rent to someone with less than stellar credit, it’s on a case by case basis. And the applicant must be able to justify why their credit is bad, and prove their ability to pay their monthly rent. If someone is telling you your credit doesn’t matter, there’s a very good chance they’re a scammer.
How to Avoid Rental Scams on Craigslist
Is Craigslist Safe for Renting?
If you are doing a Craigslist apartment search or are searching Craigslist homes for rent, you can indeed find some rentals that are legitimate and safe to respond to. Some homeowners do not want to spend the money to list their homes or apartments for rent with a real estate agent. The cheapest way for many homeowners and landlords is to put their homes for rent on Craigslist. These people would rather “do it themselves” as opposed to having a property management company or REALTOR® list it for them. They can often reach a greater number of people who are looking for a place to rent on Craigslist.
Beware, though, of those that seem “too good to be true”, or those that seem even slightly suspicious. It’s easy to fall prey to scammers…they are smart and know how to entice people who are desperately trying to find an affordable place to rent. Let’s face it…renting a home is expensive, and it gets more expensive all the time. This is because there are always lots of people trying to find a decent place to rent, but there aren’t enough decent places available for rent, at a good price. Its easy to steal pictures online (because that’s what they do), write up a vague description that is often untrue, and throw in a price that seems like an unbelievable deal. For someone who is trying to find a place to rent, it’s very easy to “jump on it” while it’s still available, before someone else signs the lease. These scammers rely on everyone who is looking on Craigslist for a place to rent.
Renting on Craigslist Tips
If you’re trying to find an apartment for rent or a house for rent on Craigslist, make sure it’s legitimate before contacting the “landlord” because they might be scammers. Once scammers have your information or worse yet, your money, there might not be much you can do. If the scammers are in another country, you are most likely out of luck. Scammers are smart, and devious, and they make it so easy to believe they really have the authority to advertise a house or apartment for rent.
When looking for housing on Craigslist, there are 2 things you can do to help determine whether the ad is real or fake:
Craigslist Tip #1:
If an address is included in the Craigslist ad, or if you make contact with the person in the ad and get the address, the next step is to Google the address. If it’s a property that is actually listed for sale, it will show up on multiple websites. Then, contact the listing agent just in case the seller is willing to lease it. Occasionally, a seller is willing to either sell or rent a property. It doesn’t happen very often, but it’s worth the call. If nothing else, you’ll learn the ad on Craigslist was someone trying pull a quick scam. And, the listing agent will know there’s someone trying to use their listing to scam people out of money. There are ways for REALTORS® to have fake Craigslist rentals removed from Craigslist, but they can’t do it if they don’t know about it. You are not causing any problems by checking to see if the Craigslist ad is real, you might just be helping someone else avoid being scammed.
Craigslist Tip #2:
Another way to check suspicious ads is to do a reverse image search. Right-click the image and select “Search Google for Image.” It’s not foolproof, but if the image has been stolen it will usually come up with a list of pages that include matching images. You can then look in the sites to see if anything matches.
What to Do if You Get Scammed on Craigslist
How to Report a Rental Scam on Craigslist
If you believe you’ve been scammed on Craigslist, there are several ways to report the scam. Also check with the local police and attorney general in your state to learn other options that may be available.
FTC Complaint Form or call 877-FTC-HELP
If you’re selling your house and you suspect someone’s using your house to try and run a scam, report the listing to Craigslist. Send an email to “[email protected]” and provide as much detail as you can about the listing. Make sure you include the URL (or 8 digit post ID number) in your email.
How to Avoid Rental Scams on Craigslist
If you can’t go see a property yourself because you’re moving from another area (or for any other reason), try to send someone you trust on your behalf. If that isn’t possible, ask to see a live video tour. If the landlord is legitimate, he or she should be willing to go to the property and do a live video of both the interior and exterior of house or apartment. Ask them to FaceTime you while they do the tour, so you know they are the ones who indeed have access. You don’t want to put down a deposit on a house or apartment that doesn’t exist.
An even better, more reliable way to find a legitimate rental is by contacting a REALTOR® or a property management company in the area you want to move to. They will have access to lists of properties that are legitimately for rent.
Is Buying in Your Future? Download the FREE Guide!
About the Author:
Melissa Spittel is a local real estate expert who serves Carroll County, Maryland and the surrounding areas in Maryland. Her knowledge, skills and experience are invaluable when it comes to buying or selling a house. Her experience working with out-of-state buyers and sellers makes her a great relocation REALTOR®, and she is part of Coldwell Banker’s Relocation Team. Do you need a real estate expert in another part of Maryland? Or even in another state? Melissa can easily connect you with a REALTOR® from her wide network of real estate pros.
Have Questions about Real Estate in Maryland? Contact Melissa, the Local Real Estate Expert