You’re on Craigslist looking for a rental. As you’re skimming listings in the $2,000 range for one particular area, you suddenly see one for $1,200 a month.
Too good to be true? In many cases, yes.
Real estate agents and property managers in San Diego County come across scammer listings on Craigslist and other websites from time to time. What usually happens is someone lifts the information from an existing sales or rental listing and makes a duplicate featuring a drastically lower price and different contact number.
Sometimes, the scammer asks respondents for cash up-front or an application with their Social Security number and other sensitive information — then never follows up. The ads often are taken down after the consumer inquires about the status of the transaction, agents and property managers say.
Century 21 Award agent Nancy Beck, who specializes in University City properties, came across this just three months ago. Someone cloned one of her sales listings in that area, taking everything from the specs to property photos. What changed was the home’s price and its status from a sale to a rental.
“People would call me after seeing my listing for a super-low price,” Beck said. “It would create a frenzy, and people would drive by the listing, see that it was for sale” and follow up with a phone call to Beck.
“That’s how I became aware,” said Beck, who went through two other similar incidents within a year.
The Union-Tribune talked to Kayla Roeder, vice president of Cambridge Management Group in San Diego, who shared some signs that a rental listing is likely a scam.
The person renting out the property:
This is a terrible scam. (Renters) go out to properties thinking they’re going to get something for $1,000, and they’re disappointed when they don’t.
These scams drastically reduce the rent and make the rentals way below market value. People are not thinking with their heads and instead with their wallets. They have this need to snap (the deal) up. It’s out of desperation.
Craigslist did not respond to a request for comment.
Some agents and managers said they normally flag the cloned listings, and they’re usually taken down within a timely manner.
Reach reporter Lily Leung at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-293-1719. Follow her on Twitter @LilyShumLeung and on Facebook.
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