Knoxville woman loses $500 in Craigslist rental scam

Knoxville woman loses $500 in Craigslist rental scam

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The scammers said this house was supposedly for rent in North Knoxville. The scammers said this house was supposedly for rent in North Knoxville.
"I was just trying to get a place for my daughter and start fresh. Learn from me," Shannon Smith said. "I was just trying to get a place for my daughter and start fresh. Learn from me," Shannon Smith said.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The glut of foreclosed homes on the market has been a windfall for scam artists. A Knoxville woman explained to 6 On Your Side how she fell prey to such a scam.

Shannon Smith is a newly-divorced mom. She left her home in Loudon County and moved in with her parents a few weeks ago.

When she saw a house in North Knoxville for rent on Craigslist, Shannon responded to the ad, went to see it and even took pictures. "It had a yard for my daughter to play in. She was very excited about the house," she said.

Shannon emailed the would-be renters. "I told them I was interested in it and wanted more information. And at that point, they said they were in Nigeria on a missionary trip."

She was told the home had recently been remodeled. When she asked why it was for rent, they told her, "They decided to sell it, but the real estate company had messed them over so they decided to take it off the market and just rent it."

A couple supposedly named Dale and Tiffany Carmichael directed Shannon to wire the rental fee to Nigeria, where they were living as missionaries. "They wanted $500. At that point, they would FedEx me the keys," she said.

Shannon wired the money, only to discover the house was actually for sale and she had been scammed.

C.J. Dagnan is the broker who listed the house. "It was a foreclosure property," she said. "It's now a government owned asset, listed in the MLS system, on public sites and the Internet."

She says the scam artists "research and find properties that are vacant and are in this category."

In November 2011, real estate investor Barry Rosen told 6 On Your Side how the house he remodeled was for sale. However, the picture of the house was taken from the Internet and placed on Craigslist, claiming it was for rent.

Dagnan says she's reported the scam about her listing to Craigslist five times, but it keeps showing up. "They put it all over the Internet. You could find it 15 or 20 different places," she said.

Here are some ways you can spot home rental scammers. Their emails often start with sir or madam. There will be misspellings, excessive capitalization and references to God. The scammer often uses a free email provider like gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo! and you'll be directed to wire money, usually to Nigeria.

If there's a sign in front of the house, call the realtor first.

Although Shannon has reported the scam, it's unlikely she'll get her money back. "I was just trying to get a place for my daughter and start fresh. Learn from me," she said.

Remember, once money is wired by Western Union or MoneyGram it's gone.

Although you can flag phony Craigslist ads, they can re-appear quickly.


If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email ddare@wate.com.

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