The FBI has released a statement that a new Craigslist Rental Scam is being run out of Nigeria. Famous for the Advance Fee Scam, or 419 fraud, the Nigerian con artists are now targeting renters in America to try to collect rental deposits on homes they do not own.
Here is the FBI report of what is occurring. If you are using Craigslist to find rental property, please make sure that you are in contact with a real person in real life. If a deal seems to good to be true and the person only stays in contact on the internet, odds are that you and your money could be in peril.
Homeowners list their homes for sale with real estate agents, who will list the homes for sale in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and also with public search websites, which allow individuals to query homes for sale via the Internet. Nigerian scammers find homes listed for sale on these public search sites, copy the pictures and listings verbatim, and then post the information onto Craigslist under available housing rentals, without the consent or knowledge of Craigslist, who has been notified.
After the posting is listed, unsuspecting individuals contact the poster, who is Nigerian, for more information on the “rental.” The Nigerian scammer will state that they had to leave the country very quickly to do missionary or contract work in Africa and were unable to rent their house before leaving, therefore they have to take care of this remotely. The “homeowner” sends the prospective renter an application and tells them to send them first and last month’s rent to the Nigerian scammer via Western Union. The prospective renter is further told If they “qualify,” they will send them the keys for their house. Once the money is wired to the scammer, they show up at the house, see the home is actually for sale, are unable to access the property, and their money is gone.
Federal Bureau of Investigation – The Columbia Division: Press Release.