Craigslist Housing Scams – How to spot them

Robin and I have been looking in earnest for a rental property in Pinellas county. We are gearing up to move July 1st. We are being very careful, making sure we do not rent a house that’s in foreclosure, is in a good neighborhood and is conveniently located in the central part of the county.

What we have found is an abundance of ads that are just too good to be true. Three bedroom houses with 2000 square feet, just do not rent for $700 a month. Not in this market; Certainly not in the last 15 years. After looking over the ads for a couple weeks now. Here is what stands out.

  • The ads are usually just a couple lines of descriptive text, like it was copied and pasted from a real estate listing.
  • The property has been listed for sale.
  • You will get an email response from someone saying that they are out of the country on a Christian mission
  • You will get scammed if you proceed.

What is happening is that a Nigerian or Panamanian or whatever foreign national is searching property listings, swiping the photos and descriptions, then re-listing the property for rent on Craigslist. Their response emails are ridiculously laden with poor grammar, mis-spellings and why would they need this information.

Let’s include a couple responses I received so we can compare notes.

The Ad.

$700 / 3br – 3 bedroom house for rent (Safety Harbor)

1000 Chillum Ct, Safety Harbor, FL 34695

This home offers quality, comfort and gorgeous views of pristine ponds. From the minute that you drive into the private cul-de-sac location.

Not a bad place for $700 a month. Guess what you will never see the inside of the home, unless you contact the ACTUAL owner. Knowing full well that this was a scam I sent over this email….

Interested in the house….is the price a mistake? More details please.

Here is the response I received;

Hello,
I can see you are interested in the ad I have pasted, I am currently in Spain with my family where we work as a volunteer with the Missionary, here is the site (www.missionary-blogs.com) for more details about why we are here in Spain. We spent less time in the States so we could not get a hold on any Realtor to handle this rent issue, although it was when we knew how long we are going to stay in Spain that we decided to rent out the house. However, the initial plan was to sell out the house. which we tried, but sometimes the agents inflates the price and it takes longer to sell. We are telling you this in case you find the house on another website, that is the old advert So we need a tenant to take care of it but since  we are out of the state now, we have received some proposals regarding the rent because it is located in a very good area, but we still have to make sure it is rented out to someone who can take good care of it.The keys to the House are right here with me and i could send it to you after all necessary agreement has been accepted by my family, It includes facilities such as water and heat, laundry facilities, air condition, internet and telephone access and a car park and other necessary facilities, also comes with trash collection. Pets are allowed as well as long as they are not destructive. We also want you to let us have trust in you as we always stand on our word. So if you know you are capable of the task,get back to me so that we can provide you with some questions that we would want you to answer. The rent is $700 per month and the deposit is $700.
Here is the location: 1000 Chillum Ct, Safety Harbor, FL 34695

Regards & Remain Blessed.
KISLIN STANLEY

Here is another response to a different ad. Closer in price to the actual market price.

 Hello,
I received your mail..I am the owner of the house you are making inquiry of…Actually I resided in the house with my family, my wife and son before we were transferred to Africa on Christian Missionary Work… Presently my house is still available and monthly rent is $900 (rent already includes utilities). Please i want you to note that i spent a lot on my property that i want to give to you for rent,so i will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this house and want you to treat it as your own. It is not the money that is the main problem  but i want you to keep it tidy at all the time so that i will be glad  to see it neat when i come for a check up.I also want you to let me have trust in you as i always stand on my word.If you notice, you will discovered that the price we are offering is far below standard price, this is enough for you to know that we are not after the rental fee but the  absolute care for the property.
My house have extremely spacious rooms.Very quiet, low traffic area.I believe its absolutely a perfect home for you and your family.Utilities include Water,Trash,Sewer,Gas.

House Address: 3203 San Carlos Street, Clearwater FL

SO IF YOU ARE REALLY INTERESTED I WILL WANT YOU TO FILL THE RENT APPLICATION FORM BELOW.
RENT APPLICATION FORM.

FIRST NAME:__________?
MIDDLE NAME:__________?
LAST NAME:__________?
PROFESSION:__________?
PHONE:
(CELL)PHONE__________?
(WORK)PHONE__________?
(HOME)PHONE__________?
KIDS_____ (YES/NO), HOW MANY________
PRESENT ADDRESS:_____________________
CITY:_______________
STATE:______________
ZIP CODE:____________
HOW LONG?___________IF RENTING
WHY ARE YOU LEAVING__________?
IF THIS HOUSE IS BEING GIVEN TO YOU,
HOW LONG DO YOU INTEND STAYING?____________?
WHEN DO YOU INTEND MOVING IN?______________?
HOW SOON CAN YOU HAVE THE DEPOSIT PAYMENT SENT_______________
HOW SOON DO YOU WANT TO RECEIVE THE KEYS AND DOCUMENTS OF THE HOUSE__________________
IF YOU HAVE A PET,
NAME OF PET:_____________?
KIND OF PETS:_____________?
HABITS
DO YOU SMOKE______________ ?
DO YOU DRINK______________?
DO YOU WORK LATE NIGHT?____?

Looking forward to hearing from you with all this details so that i can have it in my file in case of issuing the receipt for you and contacting you…Await your reply so that we can discuss on how to get the document and the keys to you,please we are giving you all this based on trust,you know that we have not seen yet and only putting everything into Gods hands,so please do not let us down in this our property and God bless you more as you do this…
The house is available for rent at the moment so you are free to move in as soon as you wish to…A Deposit of $900 (which happens to be the security deposit) is required before moving in….This deposit is refundable if at the end of the day you don’t like the House but i am giving you the benefit of doubt that you would definitely like it.Since we are not around to show the House,you can just drive by to see the outside of the House.Its a lovely home everybody would like.Feel free to call me for more information and arrangements on how to get the keys and other necessary documents delivered to you…
my number are (+234- 808-410-7303 OR 011-234-808-410-7303).The house will be available for rent for a period of 4 years so you have a choice of deciding how long you intend staying there…

Thanks and Remain Blessed.

Regards

Yeah can you believe that? I hope for everyone’s sake that this screams SCAM and you do not fall victim to a Craigslist housing scam