A funny thing happened to me as I was considering to post one of my client’s condos on Craigslist. It started out as a normal morning of me going through my eMails of potential tenants asking to see a variety of homes that we had on the market. One of the homes was a condo in Tysons Corner that I had personally sold our services to, so I tend to start with those first.
The eMail was from a girl who had found us on one of the many rental lead websites and was asking for information about this particular unit. She had actually given her phone number in the eMail, so I called her. The conversation went like this (names have been changed):
“Hi, this is Curtiss Brown of Patriot Properties. May I speak with Ann?”
“This is her,” she replied inquisitively.
“Oh great! I”m calling about your inquiry to rent a condo in Tysons Corner.”
“Oh yes, thank you for calling! Is this the one for $1100,” she asked?
I paused. “Ummm, no, this is the one bedroom for $1600 right across from the Metro Bus station on the Dulles Toll Road.”
“Yes, that is the one. I’ve spoken with Sean Wright, the owner, and he said that he would rent it to me for $1100!”
“He did,” I answered? Thinking to myself, that is odd. That is the owner’s name, but I even have a hard time getting a hold of him and whole purpose for him to hire us was so he didn’t have to negotiate with the tenants. I let her go on.
“Yes, Mr. Wright said that if I sent him the first month’s rent and security deposit, he would send me the keys.” She continued, “he said the checks had to be certified because he is in Africa right now and that would be easier for him to make sure the payment would go through the banks.”
I paused again. “Really?” Then my thoughts began racing. Mr. Wright isn’t in Africa, he went to Chicago and he knows payments all go through us. Okay, this has got to be a scam, but how did she get the owner’s name? I asked her. “How did you get Mr. Wright’s name?”
“Through Craigslist! He had an ad up, I responded and he sent me his name and eMail for me to contact him directly with any other questions .” She became excited about the prospect of getting the condo.
“Can you send me that Craigslist link,” I asked. “You see, Mr. Wright is not in Africa. There are a lot of con artists from the African area. And, never send certified checks somewhere and expect some house keys to be magically mailed back without some other form of verification that you are actually dealing with the owner, that is just silly!”
“It did sound to good to be true. I’ve been searching in that complex for months and everything is priced around $1600 or more! Then when I saw this one and then saw your ad for the same unit, I had to find out.” She sounded defeated.
“Did you send money?”
“Of course not!”
“Good! If you would like to see the unit, let me know and please send that Craigslist ad so I can have a copy and report it correctly.”
“Sure, no problem.” And she hung up.
Now, what is crazy is that some person took the rental information from online, then went to the tax records and found the owner and posted a Craigslist posting acting as if he were the owner! And, although there are warnings about these kinds of scams all over Craigslist, people still fall for them?
Okay, I used to be a big Craigslist fan for free advertising of rental units. In fact, in the past, some of my best clients started out as Craiglist inquirers. But the fact that scammers go as far as reposting a rental unit and search for the owner’s name is a bit too creepy for me. Hence, we don’t post on Craigslist anymore.
And, the really funny thing is. When we run across a customer who has really bad credit or not enough income or something else on their application that disqualifies them from getting one of our rentals, well, we say, “go online to Craigslist!”
Protect yourself, protect your assets, hire a property manager to watch over your investments and find the right tenant(s) while you are away!