2020-2021 Craigslist Rental Scams
Kris Lindahl Real Estate has posted an excellent article
about the most common Real Estate Scams on their website.
[Published 5/5/20; UPDATED BELOW: 9/16/21]
On May 15 a woman sent us a link to a Penthouse Condo for rent that was posted on Craigslist. She asked…. Did we think this was legitimate? It wasn’t! But it was also one of the best rental scams we have seen…
Here are the scammer signs we saw in this listing…
- We find the detailed information listed as very odd. For example, why list the type of Air conditioning as “Carrier Infiniti Series HVAC”. Most people will just say “air conditioning” or something simple. It is an odd laundry list of things but says nothing about the neighborhood yet they say “Generous Shower w/ Curb-less Entry, Frameless Glass Enclosed Shower”. What the heck is curb-less entry anyway?
- Most importantly, is the email address the “seller” has listed. In two locations he has specifically made an effort to post a personal email address in a way that goes against the Craigslist policy. Craigslist provides an anonymous email service to those who list and visitors must use the “Reply” button in the upper left corner to do so. (A phone number is permissible to be listed.) But rather than use the contact link that Craigslist provides, and can monitor, he separates his email address with spaces to get past the Craigslist filters: listed by: john.holmesrentals @ outlook . com
- The email address written by the person listing the property suggests he represents “John Holmes Rentals.” We Googled “John Holmes Rentals” and found a well-known realtor in the DC area with that name. So WHY is this man not using his business email address with a realty firm? Instead he has created a generic email at Gmail! This makes this listing EXTREMELY SUSPICIOUS!
We sprang into action and created a fictitious email account for a woman we named “Mary” and contacted Mr. “John Holmes” to inquire about his property. During this email exchange we tricked this scammer to reveal his location in the world. We weren’t the least bit surprised by what we discovered! Here is our email exchange with Mr. “John Holmes” and all the details of his scam….
I am very interested in the Penthouse you have listed on Craigslist.
Is it still available and if so, can I arrange to see it?
I need you to send me the link to the rentals so I can follow up with the corresponding details.
TDS NOTE: This is troubling because it suggests that “John” has multiple scam listings! We used the Google “site” command to search Craigslist.org for his email address and found another listing in Washington, DC as 1201 Q Street with his email address. (Into Google search field we typed: “site:craigslist.org john.holmesrentals” (without quotes) Here is the other scam listing posted by Mr. Holmes (click to enlarge):
Thanks for your quick reply. I am referring to this post….
Thanks for your interest in renting the property. Lease term is flexible, could be as short as 2 months or as long as one year with option to renew at the end of the one year term.
You’d get the very best of service, prompt response to issues, excellent customer service and a comfortable stay throughout your term. And most importantly, fast and easy leasing process with little or no hassle.
Though the unit originally comes fully furnished, however it can be rented either as furnished, semi furnished or unfurnished depending on tenants preference. Do note that the rent price remains unchanged irrespective of your choice. Pet friendly unit.
Details of the unit:
1. Monthly rent: 4000 (utilities like water, heat, AC, WiFi, electricity, parking and gas are included)
2. Security Deposit: $4000
3. Area (sq.Ft): 1850
4. No of Bedroom: 3
5. No of Bath: 2.5
6. Apartment: 2139 N St Nw #4 WASHINGTON, DC 20037
When exactly do you intend to move in and for how long are you looking to lease the unit?
We are interested in at least a year lease. It is for my fiance and me.
We would like to move in on June 1 if possible. Is it?
Could we see the apartment this weekend? Saturday or Sunday work for us.
The unit is currently still being occupied at this time, however it would be vacated by 05/24. We have been receiving quiet a huge number of emails from prospective tenants but the landlord has not been very comfortable with with what we have so far. I’m a bit selective (NOT discriminating) in accepting a suitable responsible tenant.
Therefore we have set up an online questionnaire of basic questions a landlord would ask anyone interested in renting his/her property and also as a form of screening applicants. There are no credit cards or payment required.
Fill out the rental application form on the link below;
TDS Note: Legitimate realtors will never use a generic Google form for an application! They will use a written form or a form on their legitimate realty website. If the scammer’s Google form disappears or you would prefer not to click it, here is what it looked like…. Page 1 and 2:
I just filled out the form John.
We look forward to hearing from you and hope to see the property soon. Can we see it on May 24th?
After a careful review of all the application received so far, we are please to inform you that your application has been accepted tenancy and I trust you will take good care of the unit during your stay.
TDS NOTE: Notice that Mary is being pressured to make a down payment without even having a phone conversation or seeing the apartment!
That’s wonderful! Thank you! What do we need to do now to secure it?
I’ve filled out the application but when I try to make a deposit I get an error saying that this Chase Account has been closed for security reasons. This is what I see: [LINK REDACTED]
I’m sorry, is there another account I should use?
Mr. “John Holmes” of Washington, DC clicked the link we sent him and revealed that he is a Nigerian scammer from Asaba, Nigeria:
UPDATE to this scam 5/18/20: We didn’t respond to “Mr. Holmes” once we learned that he was from Nigeria. However, 2 days later he sent us another email to tell us that we could send our deposit to his Bank of America account! We have notified the FBI, Chase Bank and Bank of America of all these details.
On May 4 we were contacted by a woman who had just avoided a scam listed as a house rental on Craigslist. The home for rent was listed as 5315 Hoboken Rd., Madison, WI 53713 by someone who identified himsel as “Mr. Ron Steve and Family, Project Manager for Garmong Construction.” This is, of course, all a lie. Mr. Ron Steve used the phone number 413-312-1758.
We had no problem locating that property on Zillow.com. It was listed for rent at $1650, much higher than what Mr. Ron Steve had been asking ($850). This is common for rental scams! They lure people to them by lower than market value rents. (Click images to enlarge.)
The “Rent Questionnaire” was also suspicious because it asked questions that shouldn’t be asked or in a way that was very suspicious. Questions from Mr. Ron Steve included….
1. Date of Birth
2. Reasons for Leaving
3. Are you married
4. Do you have a car
5. How soon can you have the deposit and rent payment sent to me
6. How soon do you want to receive the keys
7. Your Family Pictures [TDS NOTE: As in “please attach family pictures.” Seriously??]
Mr. Ron Steve claimed to work for Garmong Construction. However, what he did was stole the photo of a man named Ron H. from the Garmong Construction website that appears when you mouse-over the formal picture of Ron dressed in a suit. (We are excluding that photo from this story since the real Ron is easily identified.)
After sending in the “Rent Questionnaire” with their answers, the woman was immediately informed that the home was hers to rent! All she had to do was wire money to the scammer!
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT THESE SCAMS:
1. In each of these apartment scams, the listed price is well below the local market value. No doubt, this is meant to be the incentive to attract potential victims!
2. The person who owns the apartment is always in some distant state and unable to show it personally. This sham is now legitimized during the COVID pandemic and actually seems reasonable but NO REAL PERSON WILL EMAIL YOU THE KEY TO THEIR PROPERTY after exchanging a few emails!
3. The listing often (but not always) has limited photos of the apartment, especially the interior.
4. Communication with the “owner” is always via email or text, and he or she is not available by phone, and especially not via video chat!
5. The English in these exchanges is often poor and awkward indicating that it is not the person’s first language.
[UPDATE September 12, 2020] On September 12, a woman informed us that she was offered an apartment for rent by John Holmes and asked to fill out an application using a generic Google form like those above. Here is the email from John Holmes:
In the Google form application, this scammer asked the following questions below. Notice that he ENTICES victims to pay him MORE money up front by offering a discount on the rent. NO ONE DOES THIS IN REAL LIFE!
1. Address Of Property You Are Applying To
2. Desired Move-In Date
3. Number of Occupants
4. Disired Lease Length
5. Co-applicant names (If Any)
6. Full name, email, phone and current address
7. Present employer
8. Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
9. Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
10. Have you owned a home in the past?
11. Have you ever been evitected from a tenancy or left owing money?
12. Are you a United States Veteran?
13. Are you moving in with a pet? (Provide details)
14. If you eventually get selected, which of these payment plans would you opt for?
a) Month to month rent payment with 0% discount
b) 3 moths rent and get a discount of 10% off the monthly rent
c) 6 months rent payment and get a discount of 15% off the monthly rent
d) One year rent payment and get a discount of 25% off the monthly rent
15. Is there anything else we should know that could increase your chance?
The Closing paragraph says:
Authorization: I hereby apply to lease this rental property and I warrant that all statements above set forth are true.I hereby give my permission to communicate with my current and former landlord(s) or property manager(s) for the purpose of discussing any and all of the facts and circumstances of my current or former tenancy, as well as the other information listed above. I am aware that a credit history, landlord/tenant court search and criminal background check may be done in conjunction with my application and I hereby authorize the property manager to request the aforementioned reports. TYPING MY FULL NAME BELOW QUALIFIES AS MY SIGNATURE AS PER THE UNIFORM ELECTRONIC TRANSACTIONS ACT (UETA).
[UPDATE July 26, 2020] On Sunday, July 26, a woman looking for an apartment on Craigslist.com found an attractive four bedroom house listed at #40 Candleberry Dr, Queensbury, NY 12804. She reached out to the person who posted the Craigslist apartment, a man identified as Bryan Morgan, and got this reply:
On Sun, Jul 26, 2020 at 12:51 PM bryan morga <email@example.com> wrote:
Thanks for your email response. My house is still available for rent and the rent include utilities Electricity,heat,laundry facilities, Air condition, Internet and phone line. And I also want you to know that it was due to my work transfer that made me and my wife to leave the house with an intention of giving it out for rent.We are looking for a responsible person that can take very good care of it as we are not after the money for the rent but want the property to be kept clean all the time as it is our hard-earned property. If you are honestly interested and will absolutely maintain my property (Taking care of it like yours) as i hope i can put my trust and confidence in you.. Long and short lease available.
Presently, We are here in South Carolina doing the UNICEF program(The United Nations Children Fund) for through our direct service to mankind, the blessings and promises of God will manifest today. The house vital informative documents and the entrance keys to my house is with us, we try to look for dependable agent to handle the rent but could not find one due to the limited time we had before leaving the state. Mostly we do not want our property to be given to any sort of person to avoid damages and troubles. I and my wife came over to South Carolina for a missionary work, So we hope you will be a good tenant which we’ve been praying to get.
Rent: $1050 monthly include with utilities.
Refundable Security Deposit: $1050
The House is 4Bedrooms 2Bathrooms
The House Address is 40 Candleberry Dr, Queensbury, NY 12804
SO IF YOU ARE REALLY INTERESTED, FILL THE RENT APPLICATION FORM BELOW RENTAL APPLICATION DETAILS
FIRST NAME: __________________
MIDDLE NAME: __________________
LAST NAME: __________________
PHONE (____) __________ (WORK)
PHONE (____) __________ (CELL)
MARITAL STATUS: _________
KIDS _____ (YES/NO), HOW MANY ________
HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL BE LIVING______
PRESENT ADDRESS: ________________________
ZIP CODE: ____________
WHY ARE YOU LEAVING? ____________
YOUR CURRENT RENT: _______________
WHEN DO YOU INTEND MOVING IN? __________
PICTURES OF OCCUPANT SHOULD BE ATTACH
IF YOU HAVE A PET,
NAME OF PET: ______________
KIND OF PETS: _____________
DO YOU SMOKE? ______________
DO YOU DRINK? ______________
DO YOU WORK LATE NIGHT? ____
I ____________________CERTIFY that answers given herein are true and complete to the best of my knowledge. I authorize investigation of all statements contained in this application for tenant screening as may be necessary in arriving at a tenant decision. I understand that the landlord may terminate any rental agreement entered into for any misrepresentation made above.
Landing 22’1 “x 5’10” (6 .. 73m x 1.78m)
Kitchen 13’0 “x 11’0” (3.96M x 3.35 m)
Bedrooms 12’10 “x 10’5” (91M x 3.18M)
Bathroom 6’10 “x 5’10” (2.08m x 1.78m)
WC 5’0 “x 2’10” (1,52 m x 0,86 m).
Kindly get back to me as soon as possible.
Thanks And God Bless.
Bryan Morgan & Family
FIVE RED FLAGS THAT REVEAL THIS RESPONSE IS FRAUDULENT:
1. Critical readers will notice that the email address used by Bryan Morgan, is an odd misspelling of his name by dropping the last letter.
2. It is VERY CUSTOMARY of African scammers to end their email messages with words like “God Bless.”
3. Some of the questions asked by this landlord are inappropriate and ridiculous!
4. The details in the dimensions and names of the rooms are absolute giveaways that the email sender is not operating by the same naming standards and measurements that are customary in the United Sates.
5. No REAL landlord would EVER say “Presently, We are here in South Carolina doing the UNICEF program(The United Nations Children Fund) for through our direct service to mankind, the blessings and promises of God will manifest today. The house vital informative documents and the entrance keys to my house is with us, we try to look for dependable agent to handle the rent but could not find one due to the limited time we had before leaving the state.”
The woman who was interested in this property also noticed that the address was listed for sale on several realtor’s websites. She brought this to the attention of “Bryan Morgan” and his reply was “My initial plan is to sell the house but my wife and my lawyer advised me to rent it out.” The woman replied by expressing an interest to have Mr. Morgan’s agent show her the property, to which Bryan Morgan said “Listen to me. I have terminated the contract with the agent because I’m not selling my property anymore so I’m doing this myself.”
The woman, now very suspicious, replied with how interested she was to see the property and “I’m not sure I know of anyone who would ever rent a place without seeing it first. I’m sure you can understand.” But Bryan Morgan simply stated “I really understand how you feel. You can only go ahead and drive by the house to check it out.” This is 100% confirmation that “Bryan Morgan” is a scammer and doesn’t really own this property!
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 16, 2021:
Date: September 15, 2021 at 2:06:52 AM CDT
To: [EMAIL REDACTED]
Subject: House for rent
Hello, Thank you for mailing me in regard to this single family home. My wife and i are looking for a responsible tenant that will take proper care of the property while we are away because i will be relocating with my family. I just got transferred because of our job and have to rent out this property since i will be away for some time. We both work in an organization at the Christian care health system (christianacare.org). The property available for rent is in a convenient neighborhood that is peaceful and safe, It’s 2 Bedroom and 2 Bath house located at (720 League Ave, Brainerd, MN 56401)
I initially had it up for sale but had a change of mind in leasing it out ourselves because the agent that was in charge of our rental property was asking too much of an agent fee and also making it difficult for people who cannot afford the rent, stay away from renting my house. If you notice, you will discovered that the price we are offering is far below standard price, this is enough for you to know that we are not after the rental fee but the absolute care for the property.
NB: You can drive by the home to see its exterior and it’s neighborhood and get back to me for further discussion, any sign post will be removed once i get any responsible tenant so you ignore the sign post and don’t bother to contact the agents there for any reason, cause i don’t have any agreement with them anymore . As soon as you do so and if you like the location, get back to me for the interior pictures and every other necessary detail to complete the rent. The rent is $600 per month while the Deposit is $500 and the rent includes utilities such as heat, water and electrical. Pets are also acceptable. I will appreciate, if you can get back to me with your renting experience, how you can keep the place clean and anything you think we should know.
UPDATE AUGUST 4, 2021:
In early August we heard from a woman who found a house for rent on Craigslist. After reaching out to the “owner” she received the long email below and IMMEDIATELY recognized it as a scam and contacted us. We agree! Due to subtle language clues, odd phrases and questions in the “TENANT APPLICATION FORM” and other expressions, we’re certain this is from a Nigerian scammer again. The woman also Google’d the address for this “home for rent” and quickly found it listed for sale on Realtor.com (<–Link included) and Zillow.com. This is another SURE SIGN that this “rental offer” is 100% a scam! We have highlighted the MOST SUSPICIOUS and SCAMMY phrases below in BOLD RED. However, like all these scams, notice that the “owner” of the house is out of the country on an honorable mission and cannot show you the home. Also notice that the scammer invites you to text him but he will NEVER speak to you via voice or video because that would too easily expose his fraud! He’ll happily send you the keys though, once you have wired him all your money via a non-transferable, non-recoverable format!
From: town sean <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, Aug 4, 2021 at 2:25 PM
Subject: TENANT APPLICATION FORM
To: [EMAIL REDACTED]
My name is Rev. George Riggio the owner of the house you are making inquiry of.
Thanks for your interest and inquiries about my house. Yes, the house is still available for rent and we are looking for a responsible person/family to occupy and maintain the house now that we are not around. Myself and my wife just traveled to BROOKLYN NEW YORK for a program called SERVING IN MISSION (SIM), you can view the link for more info: (About SERVING IN MISSION SIM.ORG).
We will be away for 3 to 4 years or more that is why I have made up my mind to put up my house for rent to whomever that will take good care of it. However, my initial plan was to sell the house, but it was not successful because the Realtor raised the price which made it difficult for me to sell before leaving the States so never mind if you see the for-sale sign in front of the house, it has already been taken off the market as for sale so there is no need to contact any Realtor.
I want you to understand that I spent a lot on my property that you have requested to rent, so I will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this house and would want you to treat it as your own because cleanliness they say is next to Godliness. It is not all about the money to be paid on rent or spent; it is all about a good maintenance culture which I want you to adopt on the property. I want you to keep it tidy all the time so that I would be full of smiles whenever I come and above all, a good, strong and tight relationship between us when I come for a checkup. Please one more thing, I wouldn’t like to have any benefit of trust in you because I want to stand in your words that the property would be well taken care of all the time. I believe you have seen how lovely it is if from only the pictures you saw in my posting compare to the 100% comfort to be derived from it as you are an occupant.
FEATURES : Laundry, Electric Range, Electric Heat, Master Bedroom, Car Park. AMENITIES: Air Conditioning, Cable TV, Ceiling Fans, 24 hours Internet service, Dishwasher, Fireplace, Garbage Disposal, Microwave, security alarm, Pets Friendly, Refrigerator, Washer / Dryer.
GENERAL HOUSE FEATURES:
House Address: 1048 Detwiler Ave
Beverly, NJ 08010
Rent Per Month: $1085 (Including All Utilities)
Last Month Rent: $1085 (Including All Utilities)
Security Deposit: $1085 (REFUNDABLE)
Application Fee: $75
Spacious 2 Bedrooms 1 Bathroom
Utilities included in monthly rent because i have shares with the utility company, so they make sure it doesn’t go off for a minute..
NB: I am not around to show you the inside of the house due to my missionary work You can drive by and check the neighborhood and get back to me for further discussion, any realtor sign post will be removed once i get any responsible tenant so you ignore the sign post cause i have stop dealing and contacting the Realtor for too much fees and commissions i pay which i don’t want, it is available for a long term lease as we will be here for 3 to 4 years.
TENANT APPLICATION FORM
KIDS_____ (YES/NO), HOW MANY________
PRESENT ADDRESS: ___________________
ZIP CODE: __________
OWN OR RENT:____________?
MONTHLY PAYMENT OR RENT:____________?
CURRENT EMPLOYER AND PHONE:____________?
WHY ARE YOU LEAVING__________?
IF THIS HOUSE IS BEING GIVEN TO YOU,HOW LONG DO YOU INTEND STAYING __________?
HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL BE LIVING IN THE HOUSE:____________?
DO YOU HAVE A CAR:____________?
WHEN DO YOU INTEND MOVING IN?______________?
HOW SOON CAN YOU MAKE THE DEPOSIT PAYMENT____________?
CAN YOU PAY 3 MONTHS OR MORE UP FRONT TO SECURE YOUR MOVE IN____________?
HOW SOON DO YOU WANT TO RECEIVE THE KEYS:____________?
IF YOU HAVE A PET,
NAME OF PET: ___________?
KIND OF PETS: ___________?
DO YOU SMOKE ____________ ?
DO YOU DRINK ____________?
DO YOU WORK LATE NIGHT?____?
YOUR ID CARD,PICTURE OR FAMILY PICTURE(IF ANY):could be attached with the application
Notice : Text me once you fill out the application Text me at + 1 (716) 988-0616…
Looking forward to hearing 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 keys to you, please we are giving you all this based on trust and will want you to reciprocate that trust in us as well. We are putting all this in the hands of God since we haven’t met officially, and we hope you won’t let us down on taking care of the property and God bless you more as you do this…The house is available for rent at the moment, so you are free to move in as soon as you wish to. Feel free to get back to me for more information and arrangements on how to get the keys and other necessary documents delivered to you. The house will be available for rent for a period of 5 years so you have a choice of deciding how long you intend staying there but we might still consider a rent to own option depending on what the future holds.
THANKS, AND STAY BLESSED.
Notice : Text me once you fill out the application Text me at + 1 (716) 988-0616.