PORTLAND -- There are a large number of rentals advertised online in Craigslist and in most cases, they’re legit – but there are scams out there, too. Often, it’s hard to tell which is which.
Andrea Rice shopped for a rental on Craigslist because she was in a big hurry and it seemed fast and efficient. She found a home that seemed like an amazing deal. She even described it as “a steal,” not knowing how true that was.
“It was offering three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, it took animals and it seemed wonderful,” Rice recalled.
The rental home was priced at $800/month and Rice was quite excited about it, even though she admits a little voice in her head questioned whether this was too good to be true.
She said she felt uneasy when she got the application because it looked unofficial and the so-called landlord said he was a pastor doing missionary work overseas in West Africa.
So, Rice decided to do some extra research on the home.
“We typed in the address to see if it was a real house, a real rental. I pulled up the house and it looked like it was with Windemere [Realty],” Rice said.
Rice called Windermere Realty and the agent said the house was not for rent at all – in fact, it was for sale.
"These are really crooked people engaged in a horrible scam,” said Oregon Attorney General John Kroger.
Rice was lucky because she realized what was happening before sharing her personal information or giving the scammers any money.
Kroger said the scam that targeted Rice was common - scammers troll the Internet and rip off listings of homes for rent or for sale. They even grab photos and then palm the listings off as their own.
Three other couples didn’t see the warning flags when looking to rent the same home as Rice. They were scammed and, in one case, the couple had already given notice at their current apartment when they realized they actually did not have a new place to live.
According to the Attorney General, the best way to find out if a rental deal is real is to go to the home in person and meet the owner. The AG also warns not to hand over any money if you have any doubts.