‘Too good to be true’ Hijacked real estate ads turn up on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, luring tenants
update: We are receiving new reports about a continually happening scam: the Duplicated Listings, and Hijacked Listing. We share because we want you to be aware.
Savvy scammers have copied legitimate property listings details, photos; replaced the owners or agency information with their contact info, and post on sites like Craigslist & Facebook Marketplace for a below market price. Unfortunately, many people fall for these fake listings and wire or overnight money to the ad posters. Ultimately the ad poster vanish, along with the victim’s money.
Smart Customers know who they are working with!
Rental scams happen when either a property owner or potential tenant misrepresents themselves. When searching for a rental, do your research and make sure you are working with a reputable company or a licensed agent/broker. If a landlord says they are not local and cannot give you access to the property, that is an immediate red flag.
That old saying, ‘buyer beware,’ comes to mind. Being savvy when you’re in search of a home to rent or to buy is well worth the effort. Here are some signs you may be dealing with a scam:
“Red Flags” Signs of Scam:
- One big clue is when something seems too good to be true, like an apartment with all the amenities for a below market rent. Another is a request for a large deposit up front, before seeing the property. Often the scammer will make excuses for why it cannot be shown immediately.
- Poor punctuation, poor grammar, and also misspelled words. If the scam is international, they may be using a translator service that displaces the order of words or structure of the sentence which is not common with the way we use everyday speech.
- A story about being out of the area. Most rental listing scams include a story about how the owner is not available for you to meet in person, and they do not* have a local representative to meet with. You always want to be able to meet your landlord in person.
- Pay before keys. Pay sight unseen. A property owner would never, in their right mind, rent their real property to people which they, or a trusted representative, has never met. Just think about that for a minute: if you owned a home, would you do it? No way… this is definitely a red flag!
- “Don’t contact the real estate broker.” This is a HUGE red flag. A realty sign is in the yard because of a contractual agreement with the real owner. Real estate prices are set by a comparable market valuation analysis, a common system used by all licensed Real Estate Brokers.
- Scam artists tend to be overly wordy in their communication, much more so than an agency or valid landlord. No one in this day and age has the time or inclination to divulge such detail on an initial inquiry or lead. Usually inquiry leads are responded to with quick, concise verbiage that instructs the inquirer to take the next step ~ typically instructing you to follow up by telephone to schedule a viewing, or directing you to more information or rental application procedures outlined on a website.
- Other vital red flags in rental listing scams include vague pictures of the property listed, pictures from Google Maps, or in this case, the scammer has hijacked (stolen) the listing’s professional photos. Some scams include pictures that do not fit the typography of the region.
How to Report Housing Scams
- Report a rental scam to your state consumer protection or local law enforcement.
- If you found the rental ad online, report the scam to the website where it was posted. Also, file a report with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- The Federal Trade Commission also has information online about rental listing scams: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0079-rental-listing-scams.