It may not be a new trick, but it's apparently still managing to snare many unsuspecting renters. Police in New Orleans are searching for a man whom they say pretended to be a real estate agent on Craigslist so that he could trick renters into paying him deposits a home that was actually for sale. As seen in the video above, the scam snared at least four people who responded to the Craigslist ad, police say, with one woman paying the man a $1,000 security deposit.
The alleged conman purportedly used the name of an employee at a legitimate real estate company, and was able to show the home to renters by entering through a window and then leaving the home unlocked. The property's actual listing agent told New Orleans TV station WDSU that homes he's represented have been targeted before. "I've had several of my properties that are for sale, and some kind of way, they get the information off the Realtor's websites and put them on Craigslist like they own the house," Jerome Winder said.
Just last month, AOL Real Estate carried the story of another alleged scam that victimized a family in St. Louis for months, as they unsuspectingly rented a home that was in the process of foreclosure. In that case, police say, the scammers went so far as to change the locks on the home and forged ownership papers. Winder told WDSU that renters should ask extra questions when renting from a site like Craigslist, including contacting the real estate agency listed to confirm that the property is for rent.
AOL Real Estate's guide on avoiding Craigslist rental scams, also warns of:
1. A deal that sounds too good to be true. It probably isn't, so compare listings to gain insight into the market rate.
2. The bait-and-switch. Finding out that an apartment you were interested in has, when you arrive to see it, already been rented but another is available at a higher price.
3. Requests for deposit funds to be wired. Don't send checks or money wires to people you don't know.
More on rental scams:
Scammers With Very Believable Listings
Fraudsters Still Lurking on Craigslist
Scammers Coming After Renters' Money