We have witnessed a huge spike in Craiglist’s housing scams here in Shasta County in the past sixty days. We have been made aware of four in the past two weeks. We want to help you avoid having your personal information stolen and or your hard earned cash go missing. Let’s review a few situations that we hear have come up recently.
So you are shopping on Craigslist for a rental property. You come across a nice listing with great looking photos and a very descriptive listing. You hit the contact button and send off an email that you want to know more about the home. Promptly you receive an email asking what questions you have. The email also goes on to explain that the property owner lives out of town, possibly on the other side of the country and there for everything will need to be handled by email. Most often the story will involve injury, death in the family or the owner is a missionary and can’t return home to handle getting the home rented. Now is the first big part of the scam. They send along a rental application for you to fill out and provide all of your personal information. Social security number and all previous addresses. Some of the scammers will go as far as to have you send them copies of social security cards, driver licenses or birth certificates. Unfortunately, that is just the first part. The second part is they share with you that you are now approved. If you have ever been approved for a home to rent you know it can be very exciting. Now that they have you all excited they ask that you mail or overnight the deposit to them so that the deal can be all locked until your move-in date. You rush to get a cashiers check or money order to mail off, so your family has a new place to live. The scammer sends along another email to confirm that you mailed the funds and then they disappear and have your personal information and your money. If you sent then a personal check they also now have your checking account information.
There are other versions that folks who have been involved with have shared with us. Some run along the lines that the property owner is taking care of a sick parent who is about to die. One version is that they are overseas in the military fighting for us. We have been made aware of another version that references the property owner living on an Oil Derrick and so there is no way for them to come back here to deal with the rental. Most recently they added a twist. They copied some of our photos in where our sign was present, and the ad said we just let the property management company go, so please disregard the sign in the yard. As you now understand they have a lot of lies and tricks to be used to gain personal information and money.
How can you protect yourself and your family from being taken advantage of? First and foremost, if the ad sounds too good to be true, it more than likely is. Two weeks ago we had one of our ads copied, and they were offering a 3/2 bath home at 40% of its listed value, and all utilities included. Needless to say, we had a ton of sign calls as many people went to the property to check it out and then noticed a real estate sign in the yard. Many of them called the number on the sign and reached our office and did not end up getting taken advantage of. We did speak with one person that stated that she mailed them along $2400.00 to the scammer. When she called our office we could hear it in her voice when we shared that we had rented the property a week prior. She was heartbroken to learn that she had been a victim of a housing scheme.
If you are searching on Craigslist and you find a property you like that you want to rent, do a quick search for the address to see if you can find multiple listing on Craigslist with different information. Remember that we mentioned that the scammer will steal other listings photos and description. Most often when people call us to bring it to our attention, they have gone back to search for the ad and also found ours or a duplicate.
Another great tip, only deal locally. If you are going to rent property directly from the property owner, you should be able to meet them at the property and have an opportunity to go inside and have a look around. They should have an application for you if you want to apply. Ask where and how your credit will be run. They should be able to answer you right away if there is a delay they more than likely don’t have a plan. Landlords that manage their own rentals most often have that already worked out.
If you are dealing with a professional like a property manager or real estate agent, ask to see their license card. Every Real Estate agent in California has been issued a pocket card with their license information printed on it. Another way you can check out a Real Estate agent is to visit the California Bureau of Real Estate and search for the persons or companies license to see if it is valid. You might also visit the professional’s office. Look online and see if they have been reviewed in the past. If they are a true company, they should have an internet presence and a few reviews. You can also call a pro you know. Call a friend in real estate or lending and ask them to review the ad and gain their thoughts. You are also welcome to call us. We will share our thoughts and do our best to help you. We know most of the other Property Management firms in town and tons of the Real Estate agents. Most importantly, do your homework.
My name is Aaron Robertson and I’m Co-founder of Authority Property Management with my beautiful wife, Joline Robertson. We have been in property management in the Redding area for over ten years. We are tired of seeing people get taken advantage of. Renting a home or apartment can be stressful enough. Let’s all work together, so others in our community are not taken advantage of any longer.
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