IF IT SOUNDS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE…YOU SAW IT ON CRAIGSLIST.ORG
This is the advice I give to the deluge of phone calls from very confused prospective Buyers, current Sellers and prospective Tenants. They are getting caught up in real estate scams off of craigslist.org. Think you are immune? Think again.
The Proeber Team does not advertise on Craigslist.org EVER. In fact, we have begun putting in all our online advertising the fact that we do not use Craigslist and if they see that house advertised on Craigslist to call the police immediately, it is a scam. Sound like overkill?
Well, let’s look at the dangers of a scam like this.
Keep in mind that we are not slamming Craigslist or the internet to advertise. We love the internet!
In fact over 70% of people that have bought homes recently found their houses online. Craigslist has revolutionized the way people buy and sell. What I am against are the thieves that are lurking out there online, misusing the web to harm people or to take advantage of them.
How does it work?
A Seller or Landlord or reputable real estate agent places a house for sale or rent. Even if you strictly advertise off the web, your home will find itself online somehow since newspaper classifieds can post your house online. Once online, the thief can copy your ad or your home info and place the info on craigslist.org for rent. It most likely will not be identical, sometimes they will add an imaginary pool or fireplace etc. The thief will then put the house up for rent at a ridiculously low rental rate then sit back and wait for the phone calls to pour in.
Within minutes people will call or email begging for the house. They will then be told some variation of the following:
“I am renting out my personal home since I had to move to Texas/Zimbabwe/Orlando/? for a missionary assignment. I had a realty company that was trying to rent/sell my home for me but they were terrible. I bet they haven’t even taken down their signs yet! If you drive by the home, would you do me a huge favor and let me know if they have taken down their signs? __ Oh! That’s so nice of you! You seem so nice, I would love to rent my home to you. You will take care of it, won’t you? Would you mind filling out a rental application for me? I can email it to you. Now, if you will wire/send me the security, last month and first month rent I will gladly send you the key…”
The wise will have figured it out by now. The unwise will send via email all of the info needed for identity fraud. They will most likely have sent well over a thousand dollars to…someone…somewhere.
This is if it’s not too bad…if it’s on the bad side, it could be much worse.
Locally, if the house is vacant, someone will break into the home to conduct “Showings”.
Can you seriously say you would want to enter a vacant house with a stranger you met off of craigslist?
It’s not just real estate either, here’s an article about the Ocala police department and what they are doing to help ensure the safety of people buying items off of craigslist:http://www.ocalapost.com/the-ocala-police-department-creates-safe-e-commerce-exchange-zone/
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Stop looking at Craigslist for houses!!!
Look for homes at places where the Seller has to pay to advertise (eg the newspaper or Realtor.com). I have yet to see these thieves pay for advertising.
Another thing you can do is go to an established Real Estate company and ask them to help you find a home to buy or rent. You don’t normally even have to pay for that service! Why wouldn’t anyone use a free professional service that ensures your safety and security?
If you are out of area, go to a real estate agent that you know and ask for a referral: they can do it. If you honestly don’t know any, you can either google search for a reputable brokerage (i.e. Berkshire Hathaway www.bhhshometeamrealty.com) or just google the local Realtors association in the area you are moving to and they will give you several phone numbers of ethical agents.
Lastly, here in Florida we do have some interesting real estate laws but it basically falls under “Buyer Beware”.
Just remember: “If it sounds too good to be true…it probably is…especially on Craigslist!”
Andrea Proeber is now a Broker Associate! She has been a Realtor in Marion County for over a decade and specializes in long term real estate investing and property management.