Craigslist full of rental scams

So Craigslist is making it hard to post ads for real posters who care about their privacy (Craigslist Wants Your Phone Number) and simultaneously letting very easy-to-spot scam postings totally fill their vacation rental pages!

New York, and London - just look at the vacation rental pages on craigslist. So easy to spot the scams - when you see the same pattern of ad repeated many times, it is a scam. In addition to scams, craigslist is now filled with useless Airbnb postings which are just noise and do not provide a contact email address or phone number. The Airbnb automated postings are for Airbnb members only - craigslist should not allow them, they are just ads for Airbnb.

There are many sites with information on scams: Rental Scams, and here's a guide to craigslist scams. And important to note that while it is easy to spot the scammers that are from out-of-town, there are also scams involving local people, as shown in NY Times - Renters Get Swindled and Scammed article.

The easy signs of a scam are poor English in the posting and in subsequent communication, too many postings that look the same with different rentals and different email addresses, "contract" does not contain dates (they want you to fill in dates which means they don't really care), you can change dates a lot and apartment will still be available, and sometimes - low prices (no way a NYC midtown 2-bedroom apartment is available for $200/day). And if you ask to see the apartment and the renting agent immediately (even just as a bait - ask this even if you are not in that town), they will make up a reason why that is not possible, and that indicates a scam.

Of course, these are are easy scams - NYC especially is quite risky and you may even find someone to show you a room, and look all legit, but it can still be a scam - as the NY Times - Renters Get Swindled and Scammed article shows. But in general, to lower the risk, it is essential to see the place and meet the persons doing the renting in NYC or London before handing over any money. This may mean that you should book a hotel for 2 or more nights, and try to find someone willing to show a room when you are there.

So, while a vacation living in a apartment instead of a hotel in a new city is really worth it, unfortunately, at least for New York City and London, and similar cities, it is best to avoid craigslist when looking for a rental. Other sites claiming to offer NYC rentals are also quite risky since some such rentals are now illegal in NYC (and San Francisco).


Craigslist Car, Tractor, and Boat Scam

I was almost scammed a few months ago, so I wrote an article about the scam and how to avoid it.


Its not just renters that have issues with this. It can cause a great deal of trouble for landlords. I had one of my apartments used in a scam, one that was actually for rent. You can image my surprise when a guy shows up and cusses me out because his key doesn't work in an apartment that is currently vacant.

Its not exactly an easy situation for the landlord. Often times the rent is quite a bit lower then what it should be. Not to mention that scammers don't exactly care who they get their money from since their not actually renting.

The guy that showed up had bad credit when I ran his report through Couldn't pay the actual price of the rent. No deposit, bad credit and not enough income. What am I suppose to do? The guy is to high a risk a tenant and I depend on rent to pay my bills.

I didn't scam him. Nor did I fall for a scam for an apartment that is ridiculously too low for the area. And yet some how I'm the bad guy. Then of course there is the lovely chat with the cops after the guy got done screaming at me and called them.

Another craigslist scam in NYC - elaborate one!

2012/06/02 New York Times article: James Short the Scam Artist

Pretty elaborate scam - landlord even provided a bank account, Google Maps indicated a legit address, but it was all a fraud - there was no apartment at the address, and the money was scammed. Craiglist continues to be full of junk for cities like NYC.

Avoiding Scams

They are everywhere. Craigslist is a popular hot spot thought there are others out there.
I had someone use one of the apartments in my complex as a part of their scam. It wasn't exactly the most comfortable position to be in. There are some obvious warning signs
1.bad or choppy english
2. owner out of country
3. no one able to let you check it out questions about your background
5. price sounds too good to be true
6. The ask you to western union the money
Let me say as a landlord I'm going to write any emails as professionally as possible, because it is a business transaction. You want to sound like your taking this seriously and know what your doing.
Owner out of country should be a big warning sign. Most landlords who are too far away to manage their property hire property managers for a reason. Generally for things like showing the apartment, taking care of issues and maintaining the property.
Either way you should always be able to view the place before you rent it. Even if it isn't this kind of scam there is always a risk renting before you see the place.
Another thing to look out for is lack of interest in things like criminal record, credit and other background information. Any decent landlord is going to be looking for this, shoot many applications now ask you to sign off to allow tenant screening. I've been using TVS for years to do mine. Only someone who doesn't care what happens to the property would bother to look into your background. Definitely should set off warning bells.