Property Scams Are Back on San Angelo's Craigslist
SAN ANGELO, TX — Craigslist Scams are popping up again and they're using a call back number with an 866 area code.
Avoiding rental scams begins with understanding how they work. Once you know what to look for, your chances of identifying a scam before you hand over your money increase enormously.
Below are three common scams investigators at the San Angelo Police Department have noticed:
- Renting with the intent of renting to others. This scam works just how it sounds. A scam artist rents a property so they can show it to other prospective renters. They’ll collect first and last month’s rent, security deposits and any fees or charges they can squeeze out of their victims before skipping town with the loot. There have been reports of a single property being leased or rented to dozens of people before the crook vanished with their money.
- Renting on behalf of the owner. This scam is similar to the previous one but there’s one major difference: the scam artist claims to be helping someone else rent the property. They might be sick, or overseas, or just too busy to do it themselves for whatever reason. Once the scammer collects first, last, deposits and fees they skip town. The renter then discovers the home wasn’t for rent. The owners or renters may have been away for business or pleasure, or it’s a vacation home, or it could be a foreclosed property. Either way you’re out the money if you fall for it.
- Nigerian Rental Scams. This scam is a variation of the two previous scams but differs in that it takes place on the internet and the scammer doesn’t need to be present and may never have been to the property. This scam is especially dangerous because it targets both property owners and renters. One flavor of this scam involves a crook finding a photo of a property and its address then posting them on Craigslist or other online rental websites hoping someone will be willing to wire them the first and last month’s rent, security deposits, and assorted fees (Sound familiar?). If you think no one falls for this, guess again. People are generally quite trusting and the ad will be so enticing that the potential renters will think they’re getting a bargain. A variation of this scam is the classic Nigerian 419 scam. Someone will answer an online posting for a property and ask to pay by Western Union or an equivalent money wiring service. If the landlord takes the bait, and many do, the renter will “accidently” pay too much. The renter will apologize and ask for the extra funds to be sent back to them. If the landlord doesn’t wait for the payment to clear the bank and sends the money, they’re out whatever they send. That’s the scam and it’s very successful.
Below are some tips on how you can spot a rental scam:
- Don't wire money or use a prepaid debit card: You should never pay a security deposit or first month's rent by prepaid debit card or wire transfer. These payments are the same as sending cash - once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
- Watch out for deals that sound too good: Scammers lure in targets by promising low rents, great amenities and other perks. If the price seems much better than offered elsewhere, it may be a scam.
- See the property in person: Don't send money to someone you've never met for an apartment you haven't seen. If you can't visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised.
- Don't fall for the overseas landlord story: Scammers often claim to be out of the country and instruct targets to send money overseas.
- Search for the same ad in other cities: Search for the listing online. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that's a huge red flag
Please call the SAPD should any of the above scenarios sound familiar. The non-emergency phone number for dispatch is (325) 657-4315.