WRAL Investigates

Triangle rental homes hijacked on Craigslist

Posted August 22, 2011

WRAL Investigates

— The advertisement on Craigslist sounded too good to be true – a house for rent near Interstate 540 in Raleigh for $600 a month, including utilities. For interested renters, there was a catch – the owner of the house didn’t post that ad.

Owner Sharon Evans posted her house on another rental property website and first heard about the Craigslist ad from a WRAL News reporter. This was the first time someone had hijacked her house ad and posted it as their own, Evans said, but as a real estate agent she has seen it happen many times with homes she is helping to sell.

“They would scrape those (house) pictures and then put it up for rent for half of what it normally would rent if it were actually for rent,” Evans said.

The ad for Evans’ house has been taken off Craigslist, but a potential renter sent WRAL News an email she exchanged with the fraudulent advertiser. A woman claiming to be from the United Kingdom told the potential renter to send $1,200 in cash and that the keys would be mailed within 24 hours.

The woman also gave the potential renter a phone number to call. When the renter asked to see the inside of the house, the person on the other end hung up.

WRAL News also called the number, which has a Colorado area code, and spoke to a man. He said the house was still available for rent and that he wanted to rent it out “as soon as possible.” The man then told the WRAL reporter that he had a bad phone connection and to email his wife with an application.

Realtor Sharon Evans Craigslist scammers hijack rentals listings for cash

In reality, Evans’ house is on the rental market for nearly double what the fake ad was asking for.

“Someone who quickly corresponds with you through email and doesn’t let you see (the house) and asks low dollars is not going to be legit,” said Evans, who is a real estate agent.

FBI officials, who have been monitoring these cases around the country, say they think some of the fake ads are coming out of Nigeria. In Raleigh, the police department has seen several cases in the past few months.

For Evans, she says the only way she can make sure her ads aren’t being stolen is to “spend every waking moment trying to see if someone posts an ad and then flag it as fraudulent.”

Craigslist posts tips for how to avoid scams. Potential renters who question an ad should check county property records to see who owns the house. It’s also important not to wire money to unknown people.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • bareftndncin Aug 23, 2011

    I just responded to an ad on Craigslist about a rental property. The person wouldn't tell me where it was because she was "worried about vandalism", but then wanted me to submit to a credit report before she would send me any information. No thank you!

  • pulstar40 Aug 23, 2011

    We've had great luck with Craigslist - both buying and selling, just have to be SMART and weed out the few scam emails that come your way.

  • Gonzo411 Aug 23, 2011

    I use Craigslist all the time - except for real estate. When I was renting some property, I got more scam responses than legitimate responses. Among the apparent legitimate responses, it seemed people were more than willing to make an appointment for a showing, and then stand you up without the courtesy of a phone call. After a couple months I went with an agent and it was the best decision of the whole process. Agent handled everything including background and credit checks.

  • Evolve Aug 23, 2011

    Fox- Conservatives don't insult?

  • Stormy13 Aug 23, 2011

    I find fault with Craig's List letting people put ads for "rent to own" homes in the rental postings (housing/apts. for rent). Do they not check these ads from time to time? I have "flagged" way too many of these type ads to count! I totally agree that everyone MUST use a bit of common sense, whether buying or selling, using Craig's List. I currently have an ad in the rental listing under roomies and you wouldn't believe all the "out of the country" responses I get. With these I just hit "delete". It's not worth my time or energy.

  • Krimson Aug 23, 2011

    A fool and his money...

  • Pseudonym Aug 23, 2011

    Scammers prey on your greed. Think about it. Every time somebody gets scammed, it's because they think they won something, or can buy an iPad for $10, or can pay $600 for a nice house in North Raleigh. If you aren't greedy and have a little common sense, you'll be fine.

  • this is my Screen Name Aug 23, 2011

    We came across one of these rental scams on Craigslist. I got an email from the "owner" saying they are in Nigeria working for the Missionary and had the key. All we had to do was send money....... Amazing anyone would actually fall for that.

  • The Fox Aug 23, 2011

    [you can't be too bright if you actually advised her to go to the bank.]Insult? Let me guess, your a liberal.

  • MikeTysonsPunchOut Aug 23, 2011

    A healthy amount of cynicism is necessary when dealing with ANYONE on Craigslist - especially with more expensive transactions like a rental house. I always assume a Craigslist ad is a scam, until I have a chance to prove otherwise.