LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) – A Lexington woman knew something was up when strangers kept dropping by her home. As it turns out, a fake Craigslist ad showed her cabin in the country was available to rent.
Cathy Smith’s home is nestled in the hills of Fayette County. It is on the market, but not everyone who has stopped to see it wants to buy it.
Visitors were coming to the Smith cabin after seeing a Craigslist advertising the house for rent. For just $744 a month, an individual can rent the house…if they come up with $1600 that they can wire to a fictitious account.
"When they contact him, the scary part is he gives them our address and tells them to come by our house," Smith told LEX 18.
LEX 18’s Leigh Searcy reached out to the ad’s poster and he responded, saying that the owner is leaving town and will be away two the three years.
"You can drive by the neighborhood. Just ignore the realtor’s sign," writes the scammer.
Smith has finally had to put up a sign saying "This is not for rent" in her front yard.
Smith is also frustrated by the lack of response from Craigslist. She reported the ad and it has not been removed.
"He has free reign to put our house out wherever he wants to change it to whatever he wants and we have no way to protect ourselves," Smith said.
Sadly, it’s a common scam. The office of the Attorney General tells LEX 18 that there are ways to fight against these scammers:
1) Contact owner of website (Craigslist, eBay, VRBO, etc.) on which posting exists. Inform the entity of fraudulent nature of posting and request posting be removed. (Look for “Contact” information on the home page.)
2) If you speak with someone who has interacted with the scammer, gather as much information as you can regarding any communication with the scammer: purported name, phone number, e-mail address, payment methods, etc. and ask for copies of any written correspondence
3) Take screenshots of the internet posting, as information can change and postings can be removed without warning.
4) Report incident to Kentucky Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection. Provide as much information as possible, including screenshots of posting.
The common red flags in bogus real estate ads include:
- a rent or sale price that seems too good to be true,
- a poster who can’t show the property,
- a backstory designed to engender trust or sympathy, and
- a request to wire money.
- Be skeptical of ads offering low rates on houses or apartments. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Search the county clerk’s website for a record of who owns the property. Be aware that scam artists may pretend to be the true owner.
- Copy and paste an image and/or the address from an online listing into a search engine to determine if it has appeared elsewhere online, scammers often re-list homes or apartments that are advertised on other sites. If you find the property listed elsewhere, beware!
- Be wary if you find rental ads offering properties that are listed for sale on other websites.
- Don’t trust potential “landlords” or property owners who say they had to leave the country quickly for business or missionary work. Scam artists often make these claims.
- Don’t send any money until you’ve seen a property in person and/or verified that the person communicating with you is truly who he or she claims to be.
- Beware of requests for wire transfers or prepaid money cards as payment methods, especially if you have not seen the property. These are preferred methods for scammers, because once the money is sent it is nearly impossible to recover.
- Research the name or company you’re dealing with to see if they have any complaints against them.
- Never send a scan of your passport or other ID. These thieves will use your identity to scam others.
- Use reverse directory look up if the person has given you their telephone number. It’s important to double check that they are who they say they are.
- Ask to see the potential landlord’s ID – record all the information you can from it.
- Take screenshots of the posting, as information can change and postings can be removed without warning.
- Report incident to Kentucky Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection. Provide as much information as possible, including screenshots of posting.