This Is A Craigslist Rental Scam

by Bryce Baschuk

When searching for the perfect apartment to rent in DC, a healthy dose of skepticism can help you avoid being scammed as sometimes the deals on rental resources like Craigslist are just too good to be true.

Take this gem for instance: a three-bedroom, three-bath townhouse just south of Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown for the bargain price of $1,200 per month. To the out-of-towner, this looks like a good deal; to the seasoned DC renter, it looks unbelievable considering that the average rental rate for a three-bedroom apartment in Georgetown for the month of July was between $3,500 and $4,000. Regardless of this discrepancy, the Craigslist advertisement below is certainly enticing.

This Is A Craigslist Rental Scam: Figure 1

Too bad this is a scam. A Google search revealed that the home is actually on the market to be sold, not rented, by Washington Fine Properties. Someone had lifted the photographs from a real estate website and incorporated them into a fraudulent post to try to acquire personal information or money from apartment seekers.

We replied to the post and asked if we might be able to see the apartment and ask a few follow-up questions. We received an e-mail, a portion of which is included below, from a person claiming to be the landlord:

This Is A Craigslist Rental Scam: Figure 2

The email has a number of obvious red flags that should tip you off that this is a scam:

1) Misspelled email address. The email address has been blurred, but the first name of the supposed landlord is Michae (no l). While this could be sloppiness on the part of the landlords, it also suggests this email account may be temporary or fraudulent.

2) International contact information/landlords. Again, the contact information at the bottom of the email has been blurred, but the lack of a U.S.-based number is a red flag. Craigslist has a warning at the top of every post that advises against entering into an arrangement with a landlord who is out of the country and cannot meet you in person. These kinds of scams are unfortunately common and potentially harmful to unsuspecting apartment seekers. You can read a few recent news reports here and here of similar types of scams.

3) Poor grammar. While this is hardly a perfect indicator of a scam, it should make you look more skeptically at the post. As a landlord, opening up your home to a stranger is not a small decision and legitimate landlords will often agonize over the precise wording of their posts in order to encourage the best possible candidates for tenancy.

4) Landlord does not grant access to the unit. There is a lot of information absent from the application form that is typically requested by landlords, such as the request of Social Security number, references, and income levels. But one line in particular should raise an immediate red flag: “When do you intend to drive by the property?” This implies that as a prospective tenant you are only permitted to drive by and not allowed inside the home until you have sent a deposit. Indeed, a follow-up email confirmed that the “landlord” had exactly that in mind. Needless to say, do not send money to anyone who will not let you inside an apartment, or cannot furnish proof of ownership.

We contacted the real estate agent representing the property, and the post was taken down soon after. But countless more like it are posted everyday. So when scouring Craigslist for that perfect rental, be careful and remember the old adage: If it seems to good to be true…

See other articles related to: renting in dc, rental scams, georgetown, craigslist

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/this_is_a_craigslist_rental_scam/2338


  1. Mike said at 7:03 pm on Wednesday August 4, 2010:
    I've seen this scam quite a bit on Craigslist recently while looking for rental properties. Someone was listing a huge one bedroom on DuPont for $680 a month (including gated parking!). I investigated, and it was the same approach: husband is doing missionary work in Africa, wife is in a wheel chair so can't show you the apartment. If I was willing to pay 3 months in advance, I would get a $200 a month discount on rent. Red flags everywhere. Obviously, I stopped corresponding. I saw two more properties around the Verizon Center with the same exact wording...beware, if it seems way too good to be true, it is.
  1. Berry said at 7:10 pm on Wednesday August 4, 2010:
    Scams are now being carried out with reasonably priced apts. I replied to a place that was listed for $1,800 a month (two-bedroom) on U Street, and after I got the first response from the "landlord", realized it was a scam.
  1. Mike #2 said at 7:17 pm on Wednesday August 4, 2010:
    This happened to me recently as well....for the actual apartment we ended up renting. 3 year missionary trip in Africa, send the keys after receiving rent, etc, and at half the price! No surprise Craigslist is less trustworthy than going through an actual realtor.
  1. SW said at 8:08 pm on Wednesday August 4, 2010:
    No surprise here. 99% of all overseas scams contain the EXACT SAME info in the ad: missionary guy overseas, wife in wheelchair, Bible references, horrible grammar, no access to premises, international contacts/numbers.
  1. Isa said at 9:53 pm on Wednesday August 4, 2010:
    Another big red flag is whenever the supposed landlord mentions these two words: "Western Union"
  1. mona said at 1:41 pm on Friday August 6, 2010:
    Oh it gets worst then this, I am a landlord and had put a listing on craigslist to rent the unit. About a day later I typed in a word that I knew was on my listing and low and behold up pops another listing with the exact same wording. Someone had stolen my write up for the listing and was using it to show a completely different place. I sent email to that listing asking about the place like I wanted to rent it and I got that same run around and new it was a scam. So you have to be careful about even the well worded ones because the are boosting other peoples write ups.
  1. TeddyTown said at 4:31 am on Thursday August 12, 2010:
    If the listing does not include a phone number, beware. It is a scam.
  1. AG said at 5:49 am on Friday June 15, 2012:
    see this email exchange with "Richard Shilta" I had when looking for a rental: Well you can go by to view the house but please i want to let you know that the keys and documents is here with me for security reasons simply because when i decided not to sell the house anymore that is why i had to terminate the contract between me and my property manager and that is why i ask him to go ahead and remove the for sale sign away from the house and send the keys and documents back to me so kindly go and view the exterior part and get back to me with the application form . --- On Thu, 6/14/12, AG wrote: From: AG Subject: RE: $600 / 2br - Perfectly situated condo with historic charm and upgrades! To: "'Ghcbndu Hgzxbndzodh'" <ghcbnduhgzxbndzodh@yahoo.com> Date: Thursday, June 14, 2012, 5:55 PM Hello Richard, Thanks for offering your condo for rental! I may be interested in renting the house, but I unfortunately would not be able to start the lease until August 15th, after which time I would be able to enter into a full year lease. As for the lease agreement and deposit, I make it a personal rule not to sign any lease or pay any deposit until I have seen the place, met the landlord in person, and received the keys. If you think this is agreeable and you are willing to wait until August for my rental period to start, I would be happy to meet you in July and view the place. Best, AG From: Ghcbndu Hgzxbndzodh [mailto:ghcbnduhgzxbndzodh@yahoo.com] Sent: Thursday, June 14, 2012 5:29 AM To: AG Subject: Re: $600 / 2br - Perfectly situated condo with historic charm and upgrades! Sorry for the late response!!!!It is a great pleasure that you are interested in my house... Thanks for your email and it is my gladness hearing from you.i am Richard Shilta ,the owner of the house you are making inquiry of.I am looking for responsible tenants that he/she is going to take care of the house as if it were your own and he/she will be willing to make the Property clean as we left it.Actually I resided in the house with my family,such as my wife and my only daughter before and presently we had packed due to my transfer from my working place and now situated in the (West Africa Nigeria)and won't be coming to the House until Five years now and that means we are renting the Property for long term and short term lease is also acceptable. and presently my house is still available for rent including the utilities like Heat, A/C in wall/window, Hydro, cable, Garbage Disposal, Fireplace , Fridge, stove, Dishwasher, Dryer, Breakfast Bar, Dining Table and Sofa Set,Refrigerator.,internet access e.t.c .,it is unfurnished so if u wish to move in with your furniture no problem..More so Now, i went for a Crusade in West Africa . Pls i want you to note that,i am a kind and honest man and also i spent a lot on my property that i want to give you for rent,so i will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this house and want you to treat it as your own,is that taken, it is not the money the main problem but want you to keep it tidy all the time so that i will be glad to see it neat when i come for a check up.i do that once in a while...I also want you to let me have trust in you as i always stand on my word. PROPERTY DETAILS Street Address: 3060 16th Street Northwest, Washington DC 20009 Bed & Bath: 2 Bedroom Price / Rate: $ 600 Per Month Security Deposit: $ 400 Pets Allowed: Cats, Dogs SO IF YOU ARE REALLY INTERESTED I WILL WANT YOU TO FILL THE RENTAL APPLICATIONS FORMS BELOW RENT APPLICATION FORM Also,Pls let me get this answer. FIRST NAME:__________________ MIDDLE NAME: _________________ LAST NAME: __________________ PROFESSION: ________________ PHONE (____) __________ (CELL)PHONE (____) __________ (WORK)PHONE (____) __________ (HOME) KIDS _____ (YES/NO), HOW MANY ________ PRESENT ADDRESS: _____________________ CITY: _______________ STATE: ______________ ZIPCODE: ____________ HOW LONG? ___________IF RENTING WHY ARE YOU LEAVING? IF THIS APARTMENT IS BEING GIVEN TO YOU, HOW LONG DO YOU INTEND STAYING? ____________ WHEN DO YOU INTEND MOVING IN? ______________ IF YOU HAVE A PET, NAME OF PET: _____________ KIND OF PETS: _____________ HABITS DO YOU SMOKE? ______________ DO YOU DRINK? ______________ DO YOU WORK LATE NIGHT? ____ HOW SOON CAN YOU HAVE THE DEPOSIT PAYMENT SENT TO ME: _________________ HOW SOON DO YOU WANT TO RECEIVE THE KEYS AND DOCUMENTS OF THE HOUSE:______________ Looking forward to hear from you with all this details so that i can have it in my file in case of issuing the receipt for you and contacting you.Await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the document and the key to you,please we are giving you all this base on trust and again i will want you to stick to your words,you know that,we do not see yet and only putting everything into Gods hand,so please do not let us down in this our property and God bless you more as you do this.

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