Have you come across a Craigslist rental scam lately? Here are my tips to avoid Craigslist scams and real estate scams so that you can stay safe.
Over the past few weeks, we have been searching for the perfect rental home for us to move into, but sadly we have come across many Craigslist rental scams. We found many great homes, and actually signed a lease the other day on one (more information on that to come soon).
Even though we found a rental home, we came across many Craigslist scams and Craigslist rental scams firsthand. It led to us wondering “How do I avoid Craigslist rental scams?”
I only received around 10 emails back from potential landlords and three of those I knew were definitely scammers. There might have been others as well.
Due to this, I knew I had to create a post on the topic of rental scams for people who are looking for apartments and houses on Craigslist for rent.
You can find rental scams everywhere (Craigslist, Zillow, and more), and many people are duped every single day out of hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars.
P.S. If you are looking for a rental, your credit score can be extremely important. You can check your credit score with Credit Sesame for free here.
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How do Craigslist rental scams work? How do rental scams work on Craigslist?
There are cases where the person might not actually be a scammer, but you should be on high alert if you decide to continue through with a potential rental that you are unsure about.
Hopefully with my advice on renting on Craigslist tips below, you’ll be able to find a REAL rental.
Some scams that you may come across include:
- Craigslist rental scams
- Craigslist apartment scams
- Craigslist housing scams
- Craigslist vacation rental scams
- Fake house ads on Craigslist
- Rent to own scams on craigslist
If you’re wondering if Craigslist rentals are legit – yes, they are! But, you need to be careful. So, before you hand over a check, your credit card, or your driver’s license, please make sure that it is not a Craigslist home scammer that you are dealing with.
Below, you’ll learn how to spot a scammer on Craigslist.
What happens if you get scammed on Craigslist?
If you get scammed on Craigslist, they may be taking your rent money, security deposit, or even your personal information. Plus, they may waste your valuable time, and you may even be thinking that you are truly moving into the rental property.
This can be heartbreaking, and you definitely do not want this to happen to you.
How can you tell if someone is scamming you on Craigslist?
There are a few ways to tell if you are dealing with a Craigslist rental poster. Here’s how to spot a rental scammer on Craigslist.
1. The “landlord” is showing you the home, but do they actually own it?
One of the many Craigslist rental scams I have been hearing about a lot lately is when a scammer seems legitimate and even shows you around the rental. You might believe they are the landlord since they somehow got into the rental, but that isn’t always the case.
Sometimes scammers will break into a back window or even steal the key from the actual landlord so they can show the rental to unsuspecting potential tenants. This can be a huge disaster, as many people will believe the scammer since they are pretending to be the landlord.
Another Craigslist scam I have heard about that is related to this is when a renter moves into a home, pays the deposit, rent, etc., only to find out weeks or months later that the actual owner is at their door. The owner might have been on a long vacation or they might have just let the home sit vacant while trying to sell it, and thieves noticed their absence only to take advantage of the situation. This can be bad as you will have to vacate immediately and you will be out of money, such as the refundable deposit you may have given to the scammer.
My Craigslist rental search tip: Always make sure the person renting out the home is the owner or the property manager. There are many fake house ads on Craigslist. You can usually do a simple search on who owns the property by looking up city records. You also may be able to call the building’s manager (if there is one) and ask if the apartment is for rent and who is renting it.
2. A rental that seems too good to be true is often one of the many Craigslist rental scams.
This is how some rental scammers try to lure you in and an easy way to know how to spot a scammer on Craigslist. They will create a listing, make the rental sound amazing, offer it at a very low price, not require money upfront, many luxurious amenities for a low price, and so on.
Also, if it says something like smoking and pets are allowed, I would be a little cautious as well. I haven’t seen very many rentals that would just say that upfront unless they were really desperate for a renter.
This is a clue that you might be the victim of a Craigslist scam. If the landlord makes it too easy for you to live in their rental, then you need to be very careful. Scammers are often hoping that someone will be caught up in a “great deal” and come running to them with cash.
My rental search tip: Always do your research before you give anyone money. You should check other listings in the area to see if the rental is comparable and you should also see if the place is actually for rent. In most cases, it is not.
Here’s one Craigslist scam email I received (I actually received this response for two different rentals I inquired about):
3. A scammer wants your information or money before you view the home.
If you are asked to fill out a rental application before you view a home, then you might be in the middle of one of the many Craigslist rental scams. The scammer is hoping that you will give them personal information, such as your bank account number, social security number, or something else. They will then disappear once they receive all of this information. This is a bad situation because you basically just gave your identity away.
Also, if you are asked to give money before you are allowed to view a home or see the interior, then something is not right. This is most definitely a scam and you should avoid it. You should never have to pay loads of money in order to just view a home.
My rental search tip: You should always do your research, view the home, and more before you give out any extremely personal information. Occasionally, you may have to give your ID to the landlord, but other than that they should not need anything personal from you just to show you the rental house or apartment. Now, many times the Craigslist rental does for your email address, so that they can contact you. That is fine, simply be safe!
Here’s another Craigslist rental scam e-mail I received. This person sent me two e-mails so I just copied and pasted both e-mails into one so that you can easily read them both:
4. The landlord’s email has been compromised – Big Craigslist housing scams!
One scary Craigslist rental scam I recently heard about is when all of the information in a rental listing is correct. The home is actually for rent, the e-mail and phone number are real, and more.
However, when you e-mail the landlord you believe you are actually talking to them. It turns out that you are actually talking to someone who hacked into their e-mail. This can be a scary Craigslist scam as it can be hard to detect.
My rental search tip: Even though this Craigslist rental scam seems difficult, it can be easy to overcome. You should contact the landlord via the phone number that is listed on the real listing and talk to a real person. Then, you should verify everything that was discussed in the e-mails. Most of the time, landlords have no idea that their e-mail address was even hacked.
5. They give you a sob story.
Some rental scammers will give you a sob story in order to make you feel bad for them. But, think about it: why would a landlord need to tell you this at all in the first place?
It’s a business for them.
If they give you some sort of sad story, then it is most likely a scam. Lots of Craigslist rental scammers will give you a sob story such as having to move to take care of family, being forced to move due to the military, or something else.
Don’t believe it.
6. Lots of typos are a red flag
If the email or the paperwork has a lot of typos, then this is usually a sign that you are dealing with a Craigslist rental scam.
So, as you are reading their emails, the home rental application, and more, check to see if there are a lot of glaring mistakes. While the grammar and everything may not be perfect, if there are a lot of obvious errors then I would be a little cautious.
Frequently Asked Questions About Craigslist Rental Scams
How do I verify a rental on Craigslist? How can you tell a scam on Craigslist?
You may be wondering “How do you know if a rental is legit?” or “How do I make sure a Craigslist rental is real?”
There are many different things to be aware of when looking for a rental online. Here are my general tips before falling for Craigslist housing scams or Craigslist apartment scams:
- Always make sure the person showing the home is the landlord or property manager.
- If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
- If the landlord is trying to push a lot of urgency your way, then I would be wary. For example, if they say that they need someone to move in tomorrow because they are flying overseas, and that’s why they have such a good deal, then they may be a con artist.
- Be careful with your personal information, so that you are not the victim of identity theft.
- If anyone ever asks you to wire money, you should not. Most scammers will ask for money to be wired and this should be your first red flag that something is not right. Keep in mind that if you wire money, you CANNOT get it back. Too many people think you can get wired money back.
- Does the listing and/or e-mail communication with the “landlord” have many misspellings? Does the e-mail refer to you as Sir or Madam? Do they say they are out of the country and cannot show you the home until you pay? Do they claim to be a missionary or a reverend? If any of these are true, then this is usually the sign of a scammer.
- Does the person never want to meet in person? If you never meet the landlord, then it is most likely a Craigslist rental listing scam. The landlord or their property manager will want to meet you, not avoid you.
- Do they only want you to peak through the windows in order to view the rental? This is a huge red flag if they never want to meet you and instead want you to only look through the windows. Legitimate landlords will want to meet you and rental ads that state otherwise are most likely fake.
- Does the Craigslist home for rent seem like a really great deal? If so, you may want to ask yourself why they are offering such a great deal. Real owners don’t think you are doing them a favor. Instead, they see it as a way to make money.
- Do they mention Western Union or receiving funds via money order? If so, then it may be a scam as scammers love to mention Western Union. You simply want to be careful if they ask for either of these.
- Are they letting you skip any type of background check? Sometimes there are credit checks, background checks, and so on. If it is too easy to get the rental, then it is probably a scam.
- Always trust your gut instinct as there are always other places to rent in the world.
As you can see, there are many ways to learn how to spot a rental scammer on Craigslist. There are many fake house ads on Craigslist, so you want to be careful.
Are Craigslist rentals legit? How do I know if a rental is legitimate?
Yes, Craigslist rentals cans be legitimate. I have personally found Craigslist houses to rent (and lived in it) through Craigslist.
Below, you will see how to tell if a Craigslist rental is legitimate or if it is a fake Craigslist ad, and how to spot red flags.
Are Craigslist rentals safe? Is renting from Craigslist safe?
Yes, Craigslist rentals can be safe. You simply need to follow the tips in this article so that you can stay away from Craigslist rental scams and find legitimate home rentals.
Why do people post fake rentals on Craigslist?
People post fake rental ads on Craigslist because they are scammers and are looking for easy money. Plus, some potential renters who may be looking for a new home may be a little desperate as well, because everyone needs a place to live in, of course.
Is it safe to rent a room from Craigslist?
Yes, it can be safe to rent a room from Craigslist. Follow the tips here, and make sure you get along with your potential future roommates.
You also want to be safe on Facebook Marketplace, and anywhere else where you may be looking at potential homes to rent.
Someone posted my house for rent on Craigslist, what do I do?
If you have a realtor or real estate agent and your house or condo are currently for sale, I highly recommend contacting them and seeing what you can do. This is because many times homes that are for sale will be listed for rent on Craigslist through a fake ad.
You should also report the fraudulent Craigslist ad to Craigslist. Doing this will help to curb Craigslist rental frauds and help anyone who may fall for the Craigslist rental scam.
You also will want to go to your local police department and attorney general to see what they can do for you as well.
How do I protect myself from Craigslist rental scams? How do I avoid getting scammed on Craigslist?
Don’t give money or any of your personal information (such as your bank account number, social security number, and so on) until you are 100% sure that it is a real rental on Craigslist.
Also, if the person requests money or your personal info from you before you even view the rental property, then I would be careful as well.
You will want to make sure you do your research before you give the person cashier’s checks, a PayPal account, or even Venmoing or sending a Zelle payment to them. Whatever way that they ask for payment, you simply want to be careful and spend your time to make sure that you are not dealing with a Craigslist scammer.
Unfortunately, there are many Craigslist rental scams on the internet which are scamming potential renters.
P.S. There are over 200 comments below (you may have to click “« Older Comments” to see all of them), and many of you have been sharing your Craigslist rental scam stories and screenshots of exact emails. This is a great way to learn how to catch a rental scammer on Craigslist. Let’s continue to help one another out, thank you!
How to spot Craigslist housing scams? How to spot a rental scammer on Craigslist?
I hope you enjoyed today’s article on how to find Craigslist rental scams. There are definitely many fake ads out there, but do not let a Craigslist scammer deter you. There are ways to learn how to avoid rental scams on Craigslist so that you don’t get scammed.
Instead, I recommend doing your research and being careful before you hand over money or start a wire transfer. You may want to ask locals about a specific rental property, search anything you can on Google to see if the rental pops up for you (such as if you can see any complaints for that specific address), reaching out to a property management company, and more. This is so that you can make sure you are talking to the true owner of the property or whoever works for them.
After all, you don’t want to give scam artists a security deposit, Moneygram, first month’s rent, application fee, cashier’s checks, Venmo, Zelle, or whatever else they want without some verification that it is all real.
And, if a landlord asks you to send over gift cards as a form of payment, it is most likely fake and you are dealing with a Craigslist scammer. I have never, never heard of a landlord asking for a gift card as payment. It can be easy to fall for a rental scam, especially in today’s rental market where there is no rental inventory, which can lead to a lot of desperation.
Also, please be careful and watch out for Craigslist sublet scams. You can use many of the same Craigslist rental scam tips above to avoid Craigslist sublet scams.
But, there are legitimate rentals on Craigslist, you simply need to be careful. This may mean making sure to meet the property owner face-to-face, doing some research on the contact information that you are given, and more before you give a personal check and last month’s rent.
I, personally, have found a home rental on Craigslist and it was a great home. You can find Craigslist apartment rentals, Craigslist house rentals, and more that are legitimate – you just have to be careful.
What Craigslist rental scams and Craigslist apartment scams have you seen or heard about? Have you wondered how Craigslist rental scams work? Have you ever been the victim of any type of scam?