Police offer tips on avoiding Craigslist users


Scammers are targeting users of Craigslist, an international classified advertising website, and just this week there was an attempted scam reported to Michigan City police.

“Thankfully, the potential victim in our case did not send the scammer any money and realized the deal was fishy from the start,” MCPD Sgt. Cisco Rodriguez said. “However, many people across the country are unaware of the fact that they are getting scammed of their hard-earned money. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reports that more than $37 million in rental scam losses were reported in 2019 alone in the United States.”

Police want the community to be aware that this type of scam is real and is being attempted right here in La Porte County. Below is information police believe will be helpful to understand how a Craigslist rental scam works, how to recognize this type of scam, how to prevent becoming a victim, and what people should do if they do become a victim.

How does this scam work?

A potential renter finds a house for rent on Craigslist. The rental posting appears legitimate, with photographs and a great description of the property. The scammer will usually solicit inquiries for the rental property via email or text. Once a person begins communicating with the scammer, he will email a lease agreement which requires that a security deposit be paid. Scammers will make excuses as to why they cannot meet in person and will request the security payment be paid via PayPal, CashApp, or some other type of electronic funds transfer. Once they receive the security deposit, the scammer will say they will mail the tenant the keys to the property. Once the scammer receives the security deposit, they will never communicate with the person again.

How to recognize a Craigslist rental scam?

▪ The price is too good to be true.
▪ The potential tenant does not get to see the interior of the property in-person.
▪ The scammer insists on payment in advance and wants the funds sent by wire transfer or electronic payment app.
▪ The photos posted in the add have an MLS watermark. This would indicate that the photos are not original and have been copied from the internet.
▪ The “landlord” claims to be out of town and cannot meet in person, usually claiming that there is a family emergency or a work-related trip.
▪ Scammer claims the tenant can see the property only after the security deposit has been paid.

How to prevent becoming a victim of a Craigslist rental scam?

▪ Always inspect a real estate property in person. A legitimate renter will want to show prospective tenants the interior of the property before signing any lease or receiving any payments.
▪ Never wire funds to pay first month’s rent or security deposits. Always pay with check or money order so there is a record of payment.
▪ Always obtain a receipt for any payments made on a rental property.
▪ Do the research. Use websites such as Google to conduct reverse searches on images to see if the photos were used in other real estate postings and use municipal databases to check on who owns the property.

What do I do if I have become a victim of a Craigslist rental scam?

▪ Report the suspicious listing to Craigslist immediately so the ad can be removed.
▪ File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at: www.ftc.gov.
▪ Contact the local police agency to make them aware of the potential scam and officially report the scam if necessary.
▪ Save any and all documentation, communications, and electronic fund transfer receipts.
▪ Share your story. Write about your experience and share on social media. Remember, if you do become a victim to this scam you are not alone. Scammers are very good at what they do.

One Response to “Police offer tips on avoiding Craigslist users”

  1. deb

    Jun 16. 2020

    My tip is don’t use craigslist or social media. I have absolutely no problems.

    Reply to this comment

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