“Craig’s List” Rental Scam

[Note to readers: the Twin Cities MLS now has a message to Realtors on its home page regarding hijacked listings. Click here for the post discussing it]

No, not many people trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge these days.

However, there appear to be at least a few people trying to rent out homes they don’t own.

The practice, called “hijacking a listing,” consists of posting a “For Rent” ad on Craig’s List, with much of the house info lifted straight from the local Multiple Listing Service (“MLS”), where the home is listed for sale.

The home isn’t available to view — after all, the scammer doesn’t have a key.

However, they have a good cover story for that: typically, they’re overseas on a business assignment (personally, I wasn’t aware that Cargill, 3M, etc. had so many executives temporarily stationed in places like Zimbabwe and Nigeria).

To get renters to bite, sight unseen, the scammer dangles a way below market rental rate.

The would-be renter is asked to complete a background questionnaire, then mail in a “refundable security deposit payment.”

As the natives would say, “Yah, sure!”

The proper response if you encounter such a situation?

Contact the police, Craig’s List, and the Realtor listing the home, in that order.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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