The Craigslist website can be a good resource for buying and selling items, as well as a resource for those seeking a place to live or seeking tenants for an available property. But beware of Craigslist scams, which are always evolving to take advantage of Craigslist users.
Criminals from outside the U.S. troll realtors’ multiple listing services across the country and look for properties that are legitimately for rent or sale. Scammers will re-post a listing, including a picture of the property for rent or sale, at a much lower price. The Craigslist ad shows different contact information than what's in the original listing, which may display a telephone number that no one answers, causing the potential buyer or renter to send an email.
The scammer will reply with a story about how they are currently working or volunteering overseas, and typically request you to wire a deposit in exchange for a key to the apartment, condominium or house. The emails are often poorly worded.
Avoiding Craigslist scams:
- Deal only with local buyers or sellers--if the buyer or seller isn't local and won't meet with you in person, that's a sign of a scam. If you are a potential buyer or renter, you can verify the true owner of a property through the county assessor's office, which may also provide the records online and free of charge.
- Never wire money to a potential landlord or property owner. If the buyer or seller insists on you wiring money or paying by a cashier's check or money order, it's likely a scam.
- Use a common Internet search engine to research the person you are dealing with, including the phone number and email address, to see whether there are any red flags.
- Never provide personal or financial information to finalize a sale or rental agreement arranged through Craigslist, or you risk providing information to identity thieves.
- Consider using another method for finding a rental (a real estate agent or a rental agency).
- Check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints.
- Trust your instincts!
888-777-4590 (outside of the Des Moines metro area)
Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Consumer Protection Division
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0106