Criminals use Craigslist for rental scam

Criminals are using Craigslist to con people who are looking for rental properties.

If you're surfing the web for homes in the area, local realtors are asking consumers to be on alert.

The warning comes after a recent home up for sale was falsely listed on Craigslist.

St. Louis Realter Elissa Mullins said this now makes the third home of hers a scammer has tried to use on Craigslist.

A few days ago, Kim Vu believed she'd found the perfect two bedroom home for rent.

"It was cheap, it was listed for $600 a month in a nice area so we decided to give it a shot to see if it was still available," Vu said.

The home on the 7000 block of Leona Street was a cheap deal Vu found through Craigslist.

Without hesitation, she sent an email to the contact listed on the site.   The response was immediate.

"She said she was a busy surgeon, and she moved to Texas and asked me if I was interested in sending a security deposit, she'll send me the keys and I could look at it myself," Vu said.

She said the person asked for a $250 deposit up front.

"I was like, 'Hmmm, this doesn’t sound right,' you know," she said. "You don't ever want to send someone money before".

Vu decided to drive by the home to see it in person and when she noticed the sign with the realtors number listed on the front. That's when she learned the listing on Craig’s List was too good to be true.

When talking to the realtor, she learned the home was never up for rent, but for sale.

Vu was not the only one who nearly became a victim of fraud.

"Someone is trying to take from us something that they have no ownership of," Kathleen Terando said. Terando owns the home Vu was trying to rent.

Other interested consumers also found Terando's home through Craigslist and received similar email responses from the same scammer.

"This is easy $1,200 dollar payments in their pockets to disappear and the person submitting those payments is left with nothing," Terando said.

If you're looking to buy or rent a home and you're using sites like Craig's List, here are some tips:

  • If something doesn't seem right or feel right, always ask for a referral of a St. Louis Realtor.
  • Also, never trust an email contact that is personal.  It should always be from a realtor's business,
  • Lastly, if you can't meet with the listed contact in person, there is a problem.


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