Scammers seem to be falling over one another trying to trick renters with fake Craigslist ads.
Less than two weeks ago, Judi Veverka of Okemos had two separate scam artists try to rent her a house on Lansing’s Britten Avenue. Both rental notices sounded promising but it wasn’t until Veverka got two eerily similar responses from different “owners” that she discovered the ads were for the same property.
“When I got the first response, something just sounded odd,” Veverka said. “When I got the second one, that was the clincher.”
It’s a real estate scam I first wrote about last month. And, like a horror movie serial killer, it refuses to die. The scammers take legitimate home sale listings and modify them into fake rental ads on Craigslist. The addresses and facts about the homes are correct but the houses aren’t for rent.
The scammers claim to be out of the country and try to convince prospective renters to send a security deposit or first month’s rent — or both — to secure the rental. Many renters drive by and contact real estate agents when they spot a “for sale” sign in the yard.
Kathy Birchen, an East Lansing-based Tomie Raines Inc., real estate broker, first brought the scam to my attention after receiving three calls within 24 hours from prospective renters inquiring about homes that actually were for sale.
The Better Business Bureau and the Greater Lansing Association of Realtors have sent out multiple announcements and warnings. Until recently , it seemed like the scam had subsided, said Jeff Burke, GLAR president.
“It sounds like it’s starting to become an issue again,” Burke said. “I know, across the country, they’re dealing with this as well.”
As with both email responses received by Veverka, the scammers try to gain a renter’s trust by claiming to be on a mission trip and looking for someone trustworthy to care for a property during their extended absence. Veverka, an empty nester, was scanning the ads as she tries to downsize from her five-bedroom home.
“How am I going to find a house?” she asked. “I don’t know who to believe.”
Martha Morris of Lansing had a prospective renter show up earlier this month to check out her east-side Lansing home, which is for sale. Thankfully, Morris’ grandson was at the house and set the woman straight.“That lady was ready to send in $1,700,” Morris said.
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Any graduating senior from within the Lansing State Journal circulation area is eligible. Just send a letter to Good Kid Scholarship, Front Desk, Lansing State Journal, 120 E. Lenawee Street, Lansing, MI 48919, or drop it off between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Include your name and telephone number as well as the nominee’s name, school and phone number.
The deadline is Friday at 5 p.m.
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