Buyer Beware: The Craziest Craigslist Tampa Rental Scam Ever

There are never any shortages on crazy stories about Craigslist transactions gone wrong. About 2 years ago a rental ad scam on Craigslist was exposed. Of course, it all comes down to someone profiteering on the other end, and this particular Craigslist seller found a way to make money without too much of a hassle, taking advantage of people who are either too naïve, too lazy, or too desperate to call out the bluff.

The news came of a rental scammer in Hillsborough County who claimed that he actually made money scamming people online. The scammer was the one who posted what happened online. We’re not sure if he did it to oust himself or to just brag about how he made a good amount of money so quickly. It turns out that he was able to get away with $1,400 with listing a house for rent online. People who are looking for homes for rent would naturally be curious. The scammer took advantage of this and supposedly charged 14 people a $100 background check. The scammer claims that he took the money and called the people back up to tell them that the background has been denied. It was an almost instantaneous $1,400 in the bag. He even put a warning that stated, “Moral of the story people, if it seems too good to be true on Craigslist, it probably is.”

Even to this day authorities are doing further research to see if the claim was even true. The Sheriff’s Office are still trying to find the victims of the scam, as there have been no reported victims whatsoever. It may be because people might not even know that they have been scammed. People who are unfamiliar with the process of home renting or home buying are more likely to fall into the trap; therefore, they’re also more likely to be unaware of what has happened. The Sheriff’s Office is working to spread awareness about these types of rental scams online.

It’s also not an isolated incident. It turns out that the problem has spread to Pinellas County as well. A rental business in the area, Rent It Network, has also been experiencing some scamming issues. Kris Knutson, a business development manager for the company has claimed that three people have shown up to his door with real applications and approvals for the property. They’ve shown up with moving trucks ready to move into their new properties that do not exist. It happens more than people might think, and the most basic defense against getting scammed this way is simple logic. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s highly likely to be false. If this line of defense doesn’t work for you, there are other telltale signs you could look out for when it comes to obtaining rental properties online.

Legitimate rental networks don’t typically charge for background checks. That’s something that companies pay for themselves. Also, security deposits are generally taken at the end of an application. If you have someone asking for a security deposit even before the application has been processed, that should be a red flag.

Make sure that the websites used are secured as well. Many legitimate companies are able to process payments online. You can do your research beforehand to make sure that the company is legitimate before you even do. If you’re being asked for a security deposit via Western Union, MoneyGram, or a prepaid card, you should probably start asking questions. If you have to send payment via mail, you should always use a cashier’s check or a money order to avoid further fraudulent actions towards your bank account later on.

You could never be too careful these days, especially when you’re doing transactions online. Many people have successful interactions on Craigslist, but there are a lot of scammers on the site looking to prey on vulnerable and gullible people. It’s always better to be safe rather than be sorry. Always ask questions and report those whom you might find to be committing fraud.

If you think you have any information on the phony Craigslist rental ad, contact the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

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