Home Rental Fraud on Craigslist

Posted July 20, 2010 in Internet Law by Arthur Buono

A fraud artist may have pulled off a double scam recently by offering to rent a home he didn’t own on Craigslist. Although the would-be tenant didn’t part with any money, she did send an email application including some of her personal information. And although the house was not for rent, the fraudulent posting included pictures of its interior.

  • Home offered for rent to owner’s surprise
  • Tenant applicant duped into giving out personal info
  • New twist on classic phishing scam
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A New Form of Phishing

The Craigslist posting showed a tidy home with a below-market rent. The supposed landlord claimed she was a missionary working in West Africa. She said she wanted to keep the house occupied until she returned from her mission. Additional email exchanges made the tenant suspicious, but not before she had given the fraudster personal information including her birth date, home phone number and current address. The true owner and current occupant was equally disturbed to see exterior and interior photos of the house in the Craigslist ad.

Most phishing scams start with an email sent to the victim. The Craigslist fraud shows an interesting twist. In this case the fraudster used the for rent ad as bait to attract and hook a victim. We’ve all become more alert to unsolicited email offers. This clever fraudster figured out how to get the fish to come to him. Even though Craigslist took no part in the fraud, criminals have used the service before to peddle stolen goods and abet other crimes.

This Craigslist scam proves you can’t be too careful with the internet. You have to think twice before giving out sensitive information, even when you start the transaction. In a legitimate rental offer, the landlord or broker would let you see the apartment in person before taking your detailed personal information. Below market rent and other too-good-to-be-true offers should always raise red flags.

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