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A Popular Housing Rental Scam On Craigslist

By James Schugel, WCCO-TV

-- With a tough economy and tightening housing market, more and more people are renting homes while they wait for them to sell. However, with it, the number of rental scams is way up, too. In fact, there's one scam that happens daily, according to the experts at the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota.

The scam involves rental units and it is very easy to set-up on the popular website, Craigslist.

It started popping up about a year ago, and it involves not just two people, but three people.
There's the person who wants to rent their place, along with a willing renter, and that third party, the scammer who's hoping to take both of them for a ride.

"I thought it must be a mistake," Jacque Ridgway recalled about hearing about the scammer that targeted her. "If I could have only come through that computer screen!"

Her delightful duplex is on the market in Excelsior, Minn. Within a day of listing it on Craigslist, she heard from a renter, but it wasn't the email she wanted to get. She learned there was a second listing for her place, but this second listing was a fake one.

It turns out that someone had taken her ad and made their own with it. They reduced the $1,100 rental price, and then they changed her phone number.

It didn't take too long for reality to hit Ridgway.

"I didn't get any of my normal flurry of people that are interested," she said, considering how she had been affected.

She expected someone, one of the 36 million Americans who do rent, to come knocking, or in her case, clicking.

In fact, experts expect more rentals will pop up, given the fact more realtors are helping people rent their homes because they can't sell them.

"Always in housing, there seems to be a lot of scams," said Chris Galler with the Minnesota Association of Realtors. "Don't take a chance. In this market place, there are plenty of rentals out there, and with this number of rentals out there, you can work with somebody, see a number of properties, and then hold someone accountable."

Galler suggested looking for those so-called red flags we always hear about. If someone's in another country, there might be an issue. If someone won't let you see the property, again, there's probably an issue, Galler said. And never, he reiterated, e-mail your personal information to someone you don't know or have not met.

These scams will stay, and Jacque found out all about them the hard way.

Ridgway is still looking to rent and still has her ad posted, but she added an "Alert" to it, warning people of a fake ad out there too. She was hoping for an easy sell, but her work turned out terribly difficult.

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