KNOXVILLE (WATE) - People looking for rental property often turn to Craigslist, the popular online classified section. However, fake rentals are also posted on the site.
This scam only seems to grow more popular. Con artists use a real estate agent's online pictures and descriptions of homes for sale, then post the properties on Craigslist as if they're for rent.
The scammer profits when the customer wires money as a deposit.
Real estate investor Barry Rosen buys older homes, makes repairs and sells them. He spent nearly nine months remodeling a nearly 40-year-old rancher that's for sale at just under $140,000.
"Someone called me the other day. They said they heard my house is for rent. I said, no it is not for rent," Rosen said.
The home is marketed online by his realtor. Interest has picked up recently, but not to buy it.
"A lot of people have been driving by lately looking at the house, wanting to rent it," Rosen said.
The Craigslist ad says the house rents for $800 including power, trash pick up and cable. Would-be renters said, "it was too good of a deal to pass up," Rosen said. The realtor didn't market it on the site.
When an interested tenant contacts the fake landlord's email address, the scammer says he's out of town and unable to show the house.
The scam artist then tells the would-be renter, you can live in the place free for a month. Just wire us a deposit and you'll be sent the keys.
Weichert Realtors broker Jeff Grebe says his agents get a lot of calls about this type of scam. "Obviously they're just looking to get that deposit or that first month's rent," he said.
"If you're looking for rental property, you should deal with someone who is reputable," Grebe advised.
"I put a sign up as soon as I found out about the scam," Rosen said. "I want to make sure people know this house is for sale and not for rent."
Craigslist prominently warns users about scams. So if you know an ad is fake, let everyone else know.
"You can flag that listing as a fraud," Grebe said. "That will alert Craigslist there is a problem."
If you're interested in renting a home, but you see a for sale sign in front of it, call the agent about the property.
Don't do business with someone who's conveniently out of town or out of the country.
If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.