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Schemes & Rip Offs: Rental Home Scam - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Schemes & Rip Offs: Rental Home Scam

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We've got a warning from a local woman who thought she'd found the perfect rental home on Craigslist.  Right price, right neighborhood, right features, but it was all a scam.

Chelaine Spenst's search for a new place to live almost left her bank account $1200 lighter.  She found what looked like a great deal on Craigslist.  It even came with pictures.

Then the red flags started to pop up, like a for sale sign in the yard and the odd email she got from the alleged owners, who said they were serving as missionaries in Africa.

"The emails were worded poorly, spelling wasn't right, pronunciations," Spenst said.  "That and the fact they weren't using a realtor and they told me do not call the realtor."

Chelaine decided to call to realtor anyway.

"He informed me there is still a couple living in the house.  They are not missionaries in Africa and it's not for rent."

Basically the scammers stole the photos of the house off the realtor's website and created a fake ad.

West Fargo Police Detective Greg Warren says cyber crooks are constantly getting more sophisticated and still find plenty of victims.

"These people are very good at what they do," Warren said.  "But you just need to sit back and process it.  There's no hurry in sending somebody some money."

"This isn't money that we're gonna be able to get back and very rarely is there anyone for us to chase to prosecute."

If it's too good to be true, it probably is.  That's the simple phrase police and scam experts constantly try to remind people.

It's a lesson Chelaine followed.@

Craigslist officials say the easiest way to avoid 99% of scams on it's site is to deal locally with people you can meet in person.

Detective Warren says because the scams are constant and constantly changing, if you get a strange call or email be sure to let them, or your local police department, know about it so they can warn others.

MORE ADVICE FROM CRAIGSLIST ON AVOIDING SCAMS:

  • NEVER WIRE FUNDS VIA WESTERN UNION, MONEYGRAM or any other wire service - anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer.
  • FAKE CASHIER CHECKS & MONEY ORDERS ARE COMMON, and BANKS WILL CASH THEM AND THEN HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE when the fake is discovered weeks later.
  • CRAIGSLIST IS NOT INVOLVED IN ANY TRANSACTION, and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services, or offer "buyer protection" or "seller certification"
  • NEVER GIVE OUT FINANCIAL INFORMATION (bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)
  • AVOID DEALS INVOLVING SHIPPING OR ESCROW SERVICES and know that ONLY A SCAMMER WILL "GUARANTEE" YOUR TRANSACTION.
  • DO NOT RENT HOUSING WITHOUT SEEING THE INTERIOR, OR PURCHASE EXPENSIVE ITEMS SIGHT-UNSEEN - in all likelihood that housing unit is not actually for rent and that cheap item does not exist.
  • DO NOT SUBMIT TO CREDIT CHECKS OR BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR A JOB OR FOR HOUSING UNTIL YOU HAVE MET THE INTERVIEWER OR LANDLORD/AGENT IN PERSON.
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