Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Central New York Realtors say there’s been a resurgence in Craigslist scammers and they’re taking aim at the housing rental market.
The fake listings look legitimate, with the same details you would find about a house on an actual realty website.
And though the ads on Craigslist look like the real deal, most will ask you to send a security deposit ahead of time. Realtors NewsChannel 9 spoke with say that’s a definite red flag.
One ad we found on Craigslist shows a bargain, two bedroom home with plenty of room for a family, close to Syracuse University and hospitals for just $700 a month – but it’s a scam.
“Craigslist took it off our site, put this information on their site and basically told the consumer, 'We’re renting this home; send us $1,000 and we’ll have somebody meet you there with the key,'” explained realtor, Don Radke of FM Realty Group.
In less than one week, at least four separate people fell for the scam.
“So we would get calls from consumers saying, ‘We paid our thousand dollars. Where's the key?’ Of course we knew nothing about it,” Radke continued.
The tenants and realtor have tried to warn anyone else looking at the house about the scam by posting warning signs on the doors and garage. But it's not just this house scammers are preying on, the Syracuse Realtors Association (SRA) says it's happening all over Central New York.
SRA President Donna Rausch said, “It's the reputation of the real estate industry in total. People, when they lose money, don't like to think they were taken advantage of. Somebody planned it and they were taken advantage of and we should have protected them. But there's no way we can.”
The realtors say they're seeing a perfect storm of more scams because of the fast moving rental market, and eager consumers.
"There are not a lot of rentals on the market," said Radke. "They don't last long. I think that is why the consumer might jump quickly."
"Once there's a lot of people in a marketplace looking for that one perfect rental they're going to jump on it," said Rausch. "And you might not do your homework if you're really anxious to get into a house."
Realtors say they’ve contacted Craiglist about the scams, but the public site managers told them they can’t control the posts. The only way to avoid the scam is to make sure you contact the realtors directly and don’t send any money ahead of time.