WJTV News Channel 12 - Renters urged to be on the lookout for Craigslist housing scam

Renters urged to be on the lookout for Craigslist housing scam

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) -

Local landlords and realtors say people are using the popular Craigslist online classifieds site to prey on people in our area who are looking for a bargain and are in desperate need of a place to live.

Although the free website is full of legitimate people looking to make real deals, there are some people who have more sinister goals.

Landlord Gary Shaw says a scammer recently stole his rental property listings twice in the last month-and-a-half, along with his pictures and descriptions, and pretended to be the property owner. That person also slashed the listing price in half and asked potential renters to wire money in exchange for the keys to the home. Shaw says several potential renters almost became victims.

"They make the story so believable that they need money and that they're out of the country that people are actually calling them and falling for that story," Shaw said. "We've had four or five people that have called and said, 'I almost fell into this trap.' What I want to know is how much money are these guys making off of helpless people that think they're getting a bargain?"

Craigslist, realtors and landlords say there are several red flags you can look out for to protect yourself from this type of scam:

1) If the only way you can get in touch with a seller is through email, avoid the deal

2) Look for a phone number and only deal locally with people who agree to meet you in person (Craigslist says if you follow that rule you'll avoid 99% of scam attempts)

3) Never wire money

4) If the price seems too low, remain skeptical

5) Never rent housing without first seeing the inside of the home

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