SPOKANE, Wash - If you use Craigslist to find a rental property, you know that you have to be careful. The housing scams in our area are not new, but they are still prevalent.
Kim Edgerton thought she found the perfect rental property on Craigslist. She exchanged emails with the person who posted the advertisement, who told her to go to the property and take a look around.
Edgerton did, but found out the hard way the home was not for rent. As she was walking around the property, she startled the homeowner.
“She was nervous. She was shaking. I mean she was scared to death because she didn't know what we were doing there,” Edgerton said.
The homeowner, Emily Hicks told them she never posted an ad for the house on Craigslist, but the scammer must have done their research because they were posting under the homeowner’s name.
“You feel extremely violated when people are coming by your house all times of the day and night and your house is not for rent.
Hicks actually had to put a sign on her front door that said it is not for rent.
Hicks had owned the home for 16 years and at no point had she ever posted it for rent on Craigslist.
"I apologized so many times and she said don't worry about it, it's not your fault, but I said I feel really really bad. Here I am snooping around your house,” Edgerton said.
The homeowner filed a police report shortly after she noticed things were not right.
“It pretty much says I have reported it to the police, that the house is not for rent and that it is private property and there’s no trespassing,” Hicks said.
Hicks is worried at least one person sent the scammer money because of what happened to their Avista bills.
“The power got switched into somebody else’s name. We got a final power bill from Avista saying that we were going to be shut off because they switched the power,” Hicks said.
The fake ad was reported, but Hicks still want to warn others to be extremely skeptical if someone asks for money to be sent up front.
“Don’t send somebody a Walmart gift card to rent a house cause it’s definitely a scan and if the house looks occupied, it probably is,” Hicks said.
This scam is not the only one Edgerton had encountered.
She didn’t go look at two other properties because the scammers asked her to send rent money and a security deposit right. They also told her they were living in Africa.
“He told me that I had to send $1200 as the deposit. Immediately, I was like ‘nope. I'm not sending any money, there's no money going anywhere,’" she said.
Edgerton reported the fake ads, but said she worries others may fall victim.
"After three scams in a 24 hour period. You don't know what's bogus and what's not,” Edgerton said.
According to the Better Business Bureau, this is how to 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