Craigslist Scam Targets Central Coast Renters

Monday, August 31, 2009
Nicole Chavez

MONTEREY, Calif. - A new Craigslist scam is targetting Central Coast renters, according to various property management companies.

Jan Leasure, of Monterey Bay Property Management, said the scammers duplicate legitimate rental ads posted on Craigslist, but only change the contact information, as well as the price. "They dramatically drop the price to lure in victims," said Leasure. "For example, we advertised a property for $2,300 and the scammer posted it for $1,000," she added.

Julie Dominguez, a mother looking to relocate her family to Monterey, said she came face to face with such an advertisement. When she e-mailed the contact on a desireable ad for a $1200-a-month home, she got a peculiar response.  

"They responded back to me and they seemed like decent people, they seemed like they were missionary people, maybe military people," described Dominguez. "What I thought was kind of odd to begin with, was that they had already moved out of their home and they were saying they were putting their trust and faith in me," she added.

Leasure said the common response from the Craigslist scammers detail their transfer out of the country, typically to Africa. "They also send a lengthy questionaire to the renter," said Leasure.  "The person is asking things like, 'are you married?' or 'what is your religion?' or 'how many children do you have?'" she described. "Those kinds of questions are actually illegal in California to ask a prospective renter."

Then the scam artist commonly asks for rent money in the form of a wire transfer or money order. Leasure said even if the victim doesn't pay a dime, with all of his information in the hands of scammer, it's a scary set up for a potential crime. "Identity theft is certainly the biggest danger to somebody who's applying for these rentals," said Leasure.

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