A very common trick scammers use is to copy a legitimate ad and lower the price to lure unsuspecting victims. Especially in the San Francisco Bay Area where high rents is a major issue, it takes perseverance to find a home in the area. Unfortunately, there are scammers taking advantage of innocent people looking for a roof over their heads. Thus, you always need diligence especially if it involves large sums of money.
Here are some ways to spot fake Craigslist rental ads.
They refuse to meet you in person
One of the biggest signs of a scam is the seller refuses to directly meet you for some odd reason. Whether it’s because they’re out of the country, vacation, or elsewhere, if you can’t meet in person, it’s a red flag.
Photos look better than other listings
Photos are very important in regard to housing. What is tricky is if the photos are legitimate or not. Often scammers will download photos from the internet posing as legitimate photos. Luckily there are ways to counter this scam tactic. The first method is to Google search the images or see if it contains any watermarks. Second, check for the small inconsistencies in the ad especially in regards to the photos.
How to verify photos through Google Images
1. For most browsers, simply right-click on an image in the Craigslist ad and choose “Copy image address.”
2. Open images.google.com and click the camera icon. Mousing over the icon, it says “Search by image.” Paste the address you copied from step 2.
3. Look at two part of the Google image results page that says “visually similar images” and “Pages that include matching images.”
4. If the image matches any of the results, it’s with high certainty that it could be a stolen image. If the image from the other source comes from a webpage advertising a higher cost, then the ad is a scam.
Back to the list…
Asking to wire money
When you are asked to pay through a third party like Western Union, MoneyGram, etc, rather than cash/check, it’s a red flag, especially if they ask for money before you even see the property yourself. Scammers are trying to avoid dealing with you directly. Also, to cover their tracks as well.
Suspicious sense of urgency
Ads or listings that create a false sense of urgency. What I mean is essentially anything that forces you to make an irrational decision without giving yourself the time to think things through is a scam. If they say you have to make a decision today to buy it or lose it forever or anything like that, it’s a red flag. For anything involving houses, it’s ultimately a research game, not an emotional one.
Too Good to be true
If the deal is too good to be true, it’s a red flag. Why such a low price in an area where the rent is a lot more? Note that the ad above includes “cats are OK,” “dogs are OK,” and “attached garage” among other amenities.
If a listing has a sob story, it’s most likely a scam. Serious lessors are unlikely to mention their personal problems in a listing. If they do include a sob story, they may be scammers trying to bait you with emotions to trick you in giving your hard-earned cash away.
Typos and grammar errors
Typos and grammar errors are common among all types of scams. Fake listings are no exceptions. Scammers for some reason or another do not take the time to ensure their fake listings are typo-and grammar-error-free.
Lack of information
Scams may give a lack of very important information. If it’s just a paragraph of scant info, it’s potentially a scam. However, scams could give lots of important information in which you need to rely on other signals to tell if it’s a scam or not.
Protect yourself from fraud, especially from the internet. Even with the efforts of moderators, there is no excuse for not being diligent in looking for a place to live.