I’m sure a lot of you are wondering, what is Jeremy doing talking about renting a home through Craigslist, he’s a Myrtle Beach REALTOR®. That is true. And yes, I do not directly help people find a rental because our company has an entire rental division.
But, over the past three weeks, I unfortunately have had to deal with one of the homes I currently have for sale, being used in a scam on Craigslist. What has happened is, my great property at 1603 Heathmuir Drive in Surfside Beach that went on the market for sale just a few days prior to Christmas was targeted to be used in a rental scam.
Someone downloaded a few of the images from one of the various sites on which I advertise my listings and then went over to Craigslist and created an advertisement that the home was for rent for $750. They use a bogus email address to have others then email them for more details.
When you send an email, to them, you will get a rather quick response in which sounds somewhat believable, but some of it just doesn’t sound right as the English is broken. Here’s a copy of the email from one interested tenants sent to me:
Some of the parts of the scam are typical. They will say that they are not in the area so you cannot view the property prior to renting, but if you send the money, they will then send the keys to you. The issue is that you will send your money, but never see the keys.
To try & prove that they are the legit owners, they will go into the tax records which are easily accessible online and take screenshots showing that the name of the “person they are talking to” is the owner. Here’s a screenshot they sent to one of the people looking to rent the house through Craigslist:
Now, what this scammer did this time which ends up taking this from being not only just a scam, but also somewhat a crime is that they created a passport forged with my clients name over the passport. I’ve blurred the name, but you can see that with the textured paper, it’s impossible to make a legit forgery. If you look closely at the name as well as the picture, you can see where they changed items to make it show what they needed, and didn’t even do that good a job at it.
Since this started, I’ve had over 10 calls from prospective tenants in the past 10 days. These are just the consumers that had got a bad feeling about the entire situation and reached out to me to see if it was legit. Unfortunately, as you see in the letter above, the scammer told the potential buyers “I’m not dealing with the agents anymore they are bad people. This is why I am handling the rent by myself. You deal with me direct. You do not need to contact any agent when you get by the house cos if you do, they will tell you some sort of rubbish.”
The rubbish in this instance is that it isn’t a legit person renting the home. The property that they targeted of mine happens to belong to a personal friend who is selling this property and someone that I’m somewhat close to. I speak with the seller almost daily and know he would never try to do something like this to me.
How to monitor if your property is being scammed.
I spoke with the director at the local MLS to ask for some tips on what to do to keep alerted of if your property falls victim to the scam as well as what to do when it happens. Here’s the list they gave me:
1. Report to false advertisement to Craigs List (CL).
2. Report to FBI at www.ic3.gov
3. Report to state and local law enforcement.
4. Report to CCAR and SCR who can report to NAR. NAR can pressure the feds to pressure Canada and Nigeria to start making arrests.
5. Teach agents to patrol the internet for the addresses of their client properties. CL patrol. Can set up Google alerts for addresses and company name to automate patrols.
6. Teach clients about this issue so they can patrol the internet and are aware of red flags that their property is being scammed and to report these issues. (people show up to rent the property, etc.).
It is a widespread problem. Internet search on this issue will reveal numerous TV and online stories about variations of the scam. The scammers are getting better and better. It is hard for the public to realize that it is a scam. Another reason to only deal with known real estate companies operated by REALTORS. Listings, rentals, vacation rentals, etc. have all been involved in scams.
Another scam – cold call emails “I am a foreign buyer. I want to buy your listing in 2 weeks for cash sight unseen. Here is a paper certified cashiers check, deposit it.” Then later, the buyer cancels the deal and says to wire all or a portion of that paper check. Paper check later bounces and REALTOR or lawyer is out the money.”
In addition to the items above, another step that I’ve implemented now is I’ve added this sign onto the front of the home when it is a vacant property like this to help notify consumers that it is a scam. Thanks Emmy for the sign. She also has more on the scam over on her blog here.
Finally, the last thing I would say on this subject which applies to anyone looking to rent a home is to go through a reputable rental company to rent a property. In Myrtle Beach, our company has Stay & Play, and there are others, but by going through a reputable company instead of just an individual will give you piece of mind that when you send money, you will actually get into a property.
It also means that when there is an issue with the property, you have a company to contact to get whatever is needed repaired in a timely manner. I’ve heard friends who have had rentals through an individual and when their HVAC went out in the middle of the summer, they sat in a house that was 85 degrees for days because it took that long to get the issue resolved. If there is a company involved, you should have cool air again with in 24 hours instead.
Don’t Get Scammed By Craigslist
I surely hope that this post help explain some of the schemes that the scammers are using these days on Craigslist to try & get your money. I should also mention that in addition to doing it on Craigslist, they are also going to places like Facebook Marketplace and doing the same types of scams, so be careful there as well.
Lastly, before you run to get your next rental, let’s take a moment and see if you can purchase a home in Myrtle Beach instead of wasting money away again in a rental. I understand that there are some circumstances where you are forced to rent for a while. My wife & I were forced to do so for a few years and during that time, we spent over $116,000 on rent and and zero to show financially for that money.
Not so mention, we now own a home and our monthly expenses are actually less than when we rented a property. The biggest difference is that each month when we make a payment on the mortgage we are increasing equity in our pockets. In addition, as time continues to move forward the value of our home continues to increase. In the past year of owning our property, the value has increased an additional $30,000.
If you would like to explore the possibility of purchasing your own home in Myrtle Beach Area, please reach out to me so we can start the journey together.