Monday, April 29, 2013

The Craigslist Rental Scam, and What Can Be Done

Only $615 a month and includes utilities?  No. 
I'm advertising a house for rent on Craigslist, and the first call I get is from someone who is confused.  "How much is your house," she says "$850 or $615?  Why are there two ads?"

Great.  Craigslist scammers strike again.

These are people who copy the text and photos of legitimate Craigslist ads.  They remove the phone number and only have an email to contact them.  They make the listing of the house cheaper than the real ad, and frequently add things like dishwashers and free utilities, and that they will allow large dogs. 

I always email the ones who copy my ads, pretending I am interested in renting it.  They always have a story why they are out of the country.  It used to be they were always missionaries in Nigeria.  They had to go to Nigeria so fast they didn't have time to rent their house before they left!   Sometimes they are doctors, or teaching English.  It's always Nigeria though.

I emailed the latest scammer to copy my ad, and he said that he is in Lagos.  Wow, the first one not in Nigeria!  But then I googled it, and it turns out that is the capital of Nigeria.  Nigerian scammers have quite a reputation and I guess he's trying to sound like he's from somewhere else.

Here is the response I got back from my email to him:

Gfg Uyg
4:20 AM (1 hour ago)

to me
Yes my house is still available for rent at 615$ monthly, we request first month deposit and security fee of 600$ before move in which is $1215, you can go check it out at address below, and if you like it you can write us back. We just move down to Lagos, Am a Medical Doctor, I work for American UNICEF. check out there web site ( I just want you to get notice that the keys are here with me in Lagos, you can only view the house from the outside for now! If you drive by the house you may see a sign there, you have nothing to worry about it belongs to our previous agent so you have absolutely nothing to worry about and you don't have to call them because they do not have access to the house anymore! In other to proceed on sending the keys and document to you, I'll like to know few things about you and your family such as below:-
3 Bedroom 1 Bathrooms
Address: 130 Pattison St ,  
City: Syracuse , 
State:  Amityville NY 
Zip code:  13203
Pet Allowed.
Included in the Rent: Dishwasher,  Garbage pickup, Gas, Water, Electric, Washer and  Dryer.

If you are interested in renting my home kindly answer the questions below:-

Name (First name/ Middle name/Surname ) : __________?
Phone # : __________?
E-mail : __________?
Best time to call : __________?
How many proposed occupants : __________?
List all in addition to yourself including approx age : __________?
Present Address : __________?
City/State : __________?
Will you have pets : __________?
Please describe Breed, size : __________?
Personality of pet : __________?
Preferred move in date : __________?
Intended length of lease: __________?
Can you pay the security deposit and the first month rent :____________________?
Earliest possible date of deposit payment: __________?
Length of previous tenancy : __________?
Present occupation : __________?
Are you a section 8 applicant : __________?
Do you run a business from home : __________?
If so what kind of business : __________?
Do you work late night : __________?
Do you smoke : __________?
Do you drink : __________?
Do you go to church :___________?

Looking forward to hear from you So that we can start commence on how to get the keys and document sent to you. Please have this in mind that you are talking to a very nice and God fearing family, if you find any of our question inconvenience please don't be offended but answer it because we want and like to know the kind of family that will be living in our house from day one so nothing from them will be strange to us again.
Thank you and Stay Blessed.

Dr Craig A Wilson
Call me on my cell phone's : +2348093909464 ... (Work) +234708867814

So he has increased the bedrooms to 3, lowered the price, added a dishwasher and included gas and electric utilities, all for less money than the average 3 bedroom apartment with no utilities.  He's dealing with the fact that there might be someone else's sign in the yard by saying it's the old agent.  (he warns you twice about that old real estate agent.  Nothing to worry about, no, don't bother calling) And this doctor apparently took all the keys with him and will mail them to you from Nigeria.  Not that bright for a doctor.

Most of these scams use religious references, claiming they are very Christian and asking about the religious and moral habits of the potential tenants.  Actually, it's illegal in the United States to ask about the religion of applicants or imply in any way that you want someone who is a certain religion.   It is a federal law called Fair Housing.  They will go after people who specify they are looking for people of a certain religion, race, sex, etc.  I'd like to see them go after some of these scam artists.

He also uses the name of the actual owner of the house, who will be surprised to learn that he is now a doctor.  That is information that you can get from the tax database!  I've had other ads that actually used the name of the owner as part of their fake email address. 

It says right on Craigslist not to do business with people out of town and don't wire them money.  But people who are looking and looking for a house they can afford that will allow their animals really want to believe.

I've had other houses where my name was on the sign and most of the calls I got were people who were driving by to look at it after they saw the fake ad.  I felt awful when I had to tell people that no, they were not getting a house for $600 that had utilities included.  I have never talked to someone who actually sent money, but that has happened to other real estate agents I know.  One actually had people show up with a moving truck ready to move in, with their fake copy of the lease in hand.

Craigslist has an automated system to remove ads.  If enough people click on an ad to flag it as spam, prohibited or miscategorized, Craigslist will remove it.  But they just run another ad.

Craigslist does put a warning on their ads and on the reply form, but people still fall for them.  I think they should put warnings in with the actual ads - have warnings with headlines that say

$500 3 bedroom Single Family Home with utilities included pets ok IT'S A SCAM

Then on the inside, they can describe the methods that the scammers use and tell people what to look for.  I think this would be more effective than their warnings on the ads or reply forms because it would stop people before they got to the point where they are so excited to find the house that they are ignoring the red flags (like the fact that this fool has the house listed in City: Syracuse State: Amityville, NY.)

Addressing this problem would really help Craigslist maintain their reputation as the best place to look for housing.   Now I hear people saying that so many of the listings are fake that it's a waste of time.

So if you're looking to rent a house, remember that if it seems to good to be true it usually is.  I've never heard of a house including utilities - the only reason some apartments include gas and electric is they only have one meter.  If it sounds too good to be true, google the address and you will probably find it's for rent at a higher price or for sale.


  1. It is important that we show compassion on our business to keep our agents do what they have to do for the better of our Real Estate Investments Australia. Now that we are capable of doing our plans, we have to show what we can do for the better of our business. Remember that if we held hands for the success of our business we can achieve everything.

  2. Super post, Most of us take pleasure in any individual and her or his fantastic post. Your own post is reasonably beneficial in my opinion. I want to view the subsequent post. Kind regards about producing.
    USA property scams