Saturday, May 18, 2013
Watchdog: Craigslist Home Scam
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- Are you looking for a house to rent?
If you're searching on Craigslist, be warned. The State Department Of Consumer Affairs says a scam is circulating with great deals in leasing the American dream.
The only catch: the home isn't really for rent. A Columbia woman learned about this scam by becoming a victim.
Every time the phone rings, there's a knock on the door, or an email arrives on Heather Stallworth's computer. She can't help but think this may be the perfect person for her home, but lately, Heather is a little more reserved.
Te response has been there, plenty of people wanting to rent her beautiful home, but the problem is her home's for sale, not rent.
"A girl stopped by and said, "Is your home for rent? Is this the home on craigslist?" And we said, 'No, it's on Zillow and these other websites, but it's not on Craigslist', and she said, 'I'm pretty sure it is.' It looks just like this house, and it says it's for rent for $800 a month, and she went on to say it just sounded a little shady that the person was saying they were living in Africa right now and to please wire her a deposit for $800."
In fact, some fifteen people have contacted Heather in the last three weeks, hoping to rent her home, she realized she was the latest victim of this Craigslist scam. The State Department Of Consumer Affairs is no stranger to this type of fraud, and they have advice.
"Most certainly put something on the website because in Heather's circumstance, she was listing it on a website, so I would put some kind of disclaimer on there or some kind of notice saying this is the only site that we have our posting on. So if they see it somewhere else they know it's not legitimate. Because it is something that's becoming popular again, people are copying and pasting 'House for Sale" or 'Vacation Rental by Owner' listings," says spokesperson Carri Lybarker.
From the renter's standpoint, Lybarker says, "Bottom line, never send a deposit for a home you have yet to enter. Chances are it's a scam, and we say it all the time -- wiring money ahead of time is a huge red flag -- it's just like sending cash."
Of course, Heather is on the other end of this real estate nightmare, and while she can't offer you a house for rent, she has a message she wants to get out about her house.
"Yeah, it is for sale. We would love to sell it!"
As you heard in Heather's case, the scammer claimed to be living in Africa. Lybarker points out with a lot of these scams, the so-called homeowners claim to be out of the country for work. She says that should be your first red flag.
She advises if you see one of these suspicious homes for rent, you should contact the State Department Of Consumer Affairs.
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