Two weeks ago one of my investment properties needed a new tenant. As a REALTOR and Investor, in addition to using our wonderful MRIS, I use Craigslist to advertise my rental properties and can proudly boast a 100% success rate in finding new tenants.
For my ad, I went onto Postlets and created a more dramatic flyer with numerous photos of the house rather than the standard four photos Craigslist permits. Within 30 minutes, my housing ad was up and I was waiting for potential renters to flood my inbox with inquiries.
An entire day went by and nothing – that’s like eternity for Craigslist postings!
Knowing how hot the rental market is, I knew something wasn’t right. I decided to search for it like a consumer and found it …twice! The first one I found was not my beautiful Postlet flyer, but rather a simple Craigslist ad that stated the rental price was $800 a month, instead of the actual $2,200 asking price.
At that moment I realized I had just been poached, or in other words…Craigs-RE-Listed!
After my initial shock, I figured there was only one way to handle this; respond to the false ad and see what happens. I hit reply and sent an email to a hotmail account that was clearly displayed as the contact in the posting. I acted as a consumer and pretended to have an interest in the house, and even asked to see it. Within minutes I received a reply back from someone who claimed to be out of state, but instructed me to drive by the home to see the outside, and, if I still had an interest, they would make arrangements to show it to me. I responded back and mentioned that I was familiar with the area and definitely wanted to see the inside of the house. The response back was “arrangements could be made,” but because the owner was out of state a cash deposit was needed. This exchange lasted a few more emails until I finally revealed I was the actual owner of the house and was appalled by the scam. To my surprise the person responded by calling me names and was clearly disgusted by me ruining their scam.
I flagged the post so Craigslist would be notified and then reported the scam, along with my email exchanges to the local police bureau. I was informed scams like this fall under the identity theft unit and that local jurisdictions have a hard time working them since not many people take the steps I took to report these scams to authorities.
How did my story end?
I went to the house that same day to do some yard work and up pulled a car. Turns out someone else fell for the bogus ad, but instead of emailing the person, they decided to drive by the house. We met, I showed them the house and after explaining the scam they completed an application for the true list price. I’m happy to say they moved into the house a short while later!
What’s the lesson to be learned?
If you’re a listing agent, even if you do not use Craigslist, your listings might get poached and used in a scam. Be proactive; in this new world of online postings and listing syndication, be sure to check for your listings on sites like Craigslist and keep your clients informed. No one wants an upset client asking why their home appears online with minimal and/or wrong information, marginal photo usage and incorrect points of contact. If you are scammed, be sure to report it to your local authorities, so together we can work towards preventing this type of scam from happening to other REALTORS.
-Katja Hom, Director of Business Development, Avery-Hess, Realtors