I got an e-mail bulletin this morning from Denver DA Mitch Morrissey, warning me to be aware of a Craigslist scam involving unreal deals on rental properties. I've moved twice in the past eighteen months and both times I have seen a number of these -- the first time, I even went so far as to send an e-mail inquiry about one before my bullshit detector went off full force.
The scam works like this: great apartment or house renting for way, way below the going rate, sometimes with some excuse given ("need to rent today, sick mother out-of-state!"). The supposed landlord lives elsewhere, wants to do everything via e-mail/mail and, God forbid you actually write him a check, when you go to move in you're screwed because -- surprise! -- he doesn't really own the place.
The only thing new about this con is the convenience of committing it over the Internet. You send them your rental history over e-mail, they "approve" you, you send a check and they disappear. It's the same old story: when someone is offering you something unbelievable, like a beautiful rental that's priced 30 to 40 percent below market in a desirable neighborhood, it's a scam. Not sometimes, not usually, but always, always, always. Besides, would you really want to rent from a person living halfway across the world? Who the hell are you going to call when the toilet backs up? Also, the banking manager for a Nigerian oil interest does not need your help to process a multimillion dollar payment for a fifteen percent commission, you have not won a foreign lottery and those pills will not extend your size by 20 percent while doubling your stamina. Sorry! Below, read the whole e-mail from Morrissey.
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From the Denver District Attorney Be Smart When Using Craigslist
A recent article in the Denver Post highlighted a scam involving the popular online classified internet site Craigslist. The scam involves both property owners as well as those in the market to rent property.
Scam artists run false ads for rental property - property they don't own - which may or may not actually be for rent or sale. The owner of the home is unaware that their property has been listed as a rental property on Craigslist until a stranger shows up at their house expecting to move in or in some cases has already moved in to a vacant property with the assumption they have a legitimate arrangement with the owner. Unfortunately, at a minimum, these renters have paid scam artists a deposit, a month's rent and moving expenses.
Recognizing that most transactions on Craigslist are legitimate, it is still important to always take precautions:
* Deal locally with people you meet in person! * Do not do business with someone who refuses to meet you in person! * Never wire funds to a stranger! * Never give out financial information to a stranger! * Never cash a check that exceeds the amount owed to you and then return the excess money to the person who sent you the check!
Unfortunately, there is little that law enforcement can do to recover loses incurred in long distance deals such as these that are made via the internet. However, if personal contact was made with the scam artist or if personal contact information is known, Denver residents can contact our Economic Crimes fraud line and they will determine the viability of each situation on a case by case basis.
To report internet fraud contact the Internet Fraud Complaint Center - http://www.ic3.gov.
For assistance call the Denver DA's Fraud Line: 720-913-9179