Craigslist rental scam hits New Castle homeowner
Post Independent Contributor
New Castle homeowner Mark Clark was sitting in his home on Sunday afternoon when he heard a knock at the door.
After saying hello, the visitor announced he was interested in renting the house. Clark, who has owned the property for 18 years and recently listed it for sale, was baffled.
“I said, ‘No, it’s not for rent; it’s for sale,’ but they said they had the ad right there from Craigslist, listing it at $700 a month,” Clark said.
After Sunday’s incident, Clark was able to locate the listing on Craigslist, which had copied the bulk of its information from the actual for-sale listing on other websites.
“Somebody had copied the picture and my verbiage but put the $700 rental price and their email address,” explained Clark’s realtor, Phil Weir, of the Western Slope Real Estate Group.
Since that first visit, Clark has received at least 10 hopeful renters on his front step, inquiring about the property and the shockingly low rental rate. With three bedrooms and two bathrooms, Clark said $700 was probably half the house’s monthly rental value.
“It’s a case where, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is not true,” Clark said.
In an effort to unveil the scammer, Weir decided to contact the email address included with the rental listing – email@example.com.
“I decided I would respond to that email address saying I was interested in renting the property,” Weir said. “They asked me to fill out a questionnaire, so I did, and the next day they said I had been selected as the renter.”
The first email sent by “Clean Place” included a lengthy explanation in broken English, stating the owners were going to be living in Los Angeles for four years and wanted to rent out the property.
The email was riddled with grammar and capitalization errors and included a questionnaire requesting information about the potential tenant. According to the email, potential renters were allowed to drive by the property but weren’t allowed inside.
Perhaps in an attempt to add validity to the email, “Clean Place” signed it with Clark’s name.
After submitting the questionnaire, Weir received another email, similarly formatted, requesting he send the $700 security deposit via MoneyPak, a payment service. The scammer said that, once he received the deposit, he’d send the keys and rental documents.
The email also included a disclaimer about the for sale sign in Clark’s yard, stating in all capitals, “You have nothing to worry about it belongs to our previous agent … You don’t have to call them because they don’t have access to the home anymore.”
By Monday night, Weir had flagged the rental listing on Craigslist, and it was soon removed from the website. As far as Clark and Weir know, no one has actually wired the money, and a number of individuals seemed wary of the bargain.
“I had about 15 people call me [about renting], because they’d either looked up the house on Google and found me listed as a seller, or they’d drive by the house and see the for sale sign with my number on it,” Weir said. “Most of the people calling thought it was a scam, so I was able to confirm that for them. Craigslist is notorious for scams.”
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