There seems to be an upsurge in Craigslist rental scams in Chicago over the last few weeks or maybe it’s just that they’ve recently started to suck me into them (suck, not suckered) for the first time. In 9 years in the real estate business in Chicago I’ve never gotten a single call about one of these scams – until a few weeks ago. But since then several people have called me with questions about a peculiar landlord that is offering a too-good-to-be-true rental.
The first call came from an unfortunate victim who responded to a Craigslist ad for a rental in University Commons that he needed for his daughter for the summer. He had sent the person money and was days away from moving her into the unit but the “landlord” was no longer responding.
Then I received several calls on a home that we have recently put under contract but is nevertheless being advertised for rent on Craigslist for a mere fraction of the market rate. The scam artist(s) are using our photos and a portion of our property description in their ads. Interested parties contact the scammer at firstname.lastname@example.org, never talk to them on the phone, and never actually get to see the property because the “landlord” is in Africa on a mission for Serving In Mission. The scammer signs their emails with the name of the former tenant of the home, which maybe they got off the mailbox? If true that would suggest that the scammer is local or at least working with someone local.
The scammer eventually sends the victim an application that looks kind of official. It has a fair housing statement and other statements to the effect that nobody else will be living in the home and that all occupants will be jointly liable for the rent. The most personal information they ask for is name, address, email address, phone number, birth date, and automobile information. Eventually they ask for money, which I assume is their real goal.
Some victims have driven by and see the For Sale sign, which raises their suspicion. When the scammer is asked why the property is for sale they claim that their realtor has been unable to sell it, they are no longer working with their realtor, and they have decided to rent it out instead. Oh…and the rent is so cheap because what they are really looking for is someone to take care of the property while they are out of the country.
Of course, nobody should send money to anyone that they have not at least spoken with on the phone and for a property that they have never actually seen. The other red flag is that the English in these emails is just terrible – just like those emails you get from the son of an African general who is trying to get his money out of his country. But all it takes is a few gullible souls to keep people like this in business.
Unfortunately, the Craigslist mechanism for reporting these scams is essentially worthless so these scams stay out there.
#ChicagoRentalScam #CraigslistRentalScam #RentalScam
Gary Lucido is the President of Lucid Realty, the Chicago area’s full service discount real estate brokerage. If you want to keep up to date on the Chicago real estate market, get an insider’s view of the seamy underbelly of the real estate industry, or you just think he’s the next Kurt Vonnegut you can Subscribe to Getting Real by Email using the form below. Please be sure to verify your email address when you receive the verification notice.