Rental Remedies

Renters Beware: A newer type of scam

UpdateAs of this afternoon (2/22/2012) I was contacted by the real owner of the rental home pictured below.  It is legitimately for rent, but for a higher price than the one pictured in the ad below.   Here is the link to the legit rental ad: .  It’s an amazing mid-mod style home in Reston, VA.

Ryan and I both absolutely love our current rental home.  It’s so clean, warm, modern, and full of happy vibes.  But I’m not going to lie, the monthly rent takes a pretty big chunk of change – normal for the DC suburbs, but scary when you think about it too much.

Technically, the house is in our budget, and we’re both able to set aside a good bit of our paychecks for savings.  However, Ryan and I were discussing the fact that sometime after we get married we’ll want to have kids.   And I’ll stay home with them for a while.  I.e. – we’ll be a one income family.  We’re not ready to move, not by a long shot.  But because I’m a nut, I looked at rental homes on Craigslist “just for fun.”

I spied a few decent houses that cost significantly less than we pay now,  so I contacted them just to find out more.  I really don’t want to move.  But for the difference in price, it seemed foolish not to consider the option.

One house in particular caught our attention.  A funky Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired modern home, near a lake and only 2 miles from where we live now.  Ryan and I actually got really excited about it, because the only thing cooler than staying where we are now would be living in a funky mid-mod house with serious quirks and character.  What a fun adventure!



After work Ryan and I checked it out on Zillow, because we were eager to know more about it.  After we looked at all the photos and fell head over heels for the place, we we got confused.    Zillow said the place was $2800 a month, not $1500.   We figured it was a typo.

Then I heard back from another property that we’d inquired about. The grammar was poor, like English was their second language, but the note was personal and seemed legit to both of us.  We followed up, requesting a tour of the place.  The response?

Hello Dear,

Sorry for the late response!!!!I can see you are interested in the ad I have posted, I am currently in Nigeria with my family where we work as a volunteer with the Missionary. We spent less time in the States so we could not get a hold on any Realtor to handle this rent issue, although it was when we knew how long we are going to stay in Nigeria that we decided to rent out the house. However, the initial plan was to sell out the house. which we tried, but sometimes the agents inflates the price and it takes longer to sell we are telling you this in case you find the house on another website, that is the old advert.  So we need a tenant to take care of it but since we are out of the state now, we have received some proposals regarding the rent because it is located in a very good area, but we still have to make sure it is rented out to someone who can take good care of it.The keys to the House are right here with me and i could send it to you after all necessary agreement has be accepted by my family,We also want you to let us have trust in you as we always stand on our word.So if you know you are capable of the task,It is available for a long lease.The monthly rental fee is $1300 per month including the utilities and the security deposit is $900 which is refundable back to you at the end of your stay if nothing is damaged from my properties . . .

The email continued and had a rental application asking for personal info, but I won’t waste any more space on the blog with their bullshit.  Obviously Ryan and I realized it was a scam.   Note what I highlighted in bold:  sure enough, the house is for sale, by a legit real estate agent.

I turned to Google and learned the Nigerian email scam thing has now expanded its scope to include rental homes on Craigslist and Zillow.  They grab info and photos from the MLS or other realty sites.   In one horrifying scam instance, the potential tenants fell for the scam, got the locks changed, and were moved in when the real homeowner arrived.  That’s awful!

But back to that funky modern house we’d fallen for:  Sure enough, we received another email from Nigeria, similar to the one above.   They said not to worry about the fact that it may appear to cost more other places, and to ignore the real estate agent.

As of this morning, all of the houses that we inquired about, all of which seemed reasonably but not cheaply priced ($1500 – $1800 a month) turned out to be scam postings. 

I’ve reported them all, and I think we’ll just stay put in our wonderful home that we love.  This has reminded us just how scarce affordable single family home rentals are in the DC area.

Please, don’t ever agree to send or accept money for overseas.  NEVER. If it seems too good to be true, it is.  I promise you.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Clare at 12:51 pm

    So obnoxious. Same thing happened to us when we were looking for a new place to rent 1+ year ago. Luckily we ended up finding a 3 bed, 2 bath house in Falls Church for within our budget (we pay just under $1800) but the whole search was exhausting. I hate craigslist sometimes!

  • Reply Funnelcloud Rachel at 1:00 pm

    This is amazing (and horrible)! I’d never heard of this particular scam before, but I’m not surprised. And why are they always Nigerian?!

    I’ve found that in the DC area, if it appears to be too good to be true, it is – whether you’re looking to rent or buy! Regardless of scams, the photos of properties are always deceiving. We saw some real doozies when we were house shopping. That being said, sometimes looking at real estate just for fun really helps you appreciate the place that you’re already living!

  • Reply Christina Leaman at 1:22 pm

    That is CRAZY! I feel so bad for the homeowners. I own a rental property in FL so that makes this doubly scary. Wow. 

  • Reply Brynne at 1:25 pm

    That happened to us here in Dallas! Same lengthy Nigerian missionary spiel, and enticing rental amount! Thankfully we realized it was a scam as well. Too bad, because the house was perfect for us 🙁

  • Reply Michelle at 1:38 pm

    Thank you for the PSA! How scary!
    I ran into the same thing when we started searching in October. I have to agree with Rachel, while I was searching for rental houses/apartments in the Baltimore County area, the photos online never did the property justice. Either they were taken badly on purpose to hide flaws or they excluded amazing features (I had my eyes on a single family home with a phenomenal backyard, and we discovered during the walk thru that it had a finished basement too!) I’m always checking out property listings, isn’t that normal? 🙂 

  • Reply JennDee at 1:50 pm

    I actually just went through the process of finding a new home and (finally!) signing the lease, and it took three months because almost everything listed on Craigslist in my area was part of this scam. These scams are popping up everywhere–I’m near a major city in Pennsylvania and you wouldn’t believe how many listings are false once you begin looking at legitimate sites (I always use something like Trulia or Prudential Homes that many real estate agents use for their properties). Thanks for all the details, Jane! 

  • Reply Loren Cline at 2:01 pm

    Ugh, I was looking around for a place in our town they did a similar thing. Took real photos of real rental properties and listed them at about 1/3 the real cost on Craigslist. If you contacted them they would ask for a ridiculous amount of personal info including credit card numbers to run the rental application.

  • Reply Ashley @ Design Build Love at 2:21 pm

    wow!  That is totally insane and a complete bummer!  Those nigerian scams are simply awful and I wish there was a way to get rid of them altogether!!!

  • Reply Martina@BuildingBeauty at 2:50 pm

    Wow. This is insane! So lucky you guys were sharp enough to spot the scam a mile away!

     We ran into the same thing when looking at vehicles (we knew we weren’t going to buy new). It’s appalling how ubiquitous these scams targeting honest people are.

  • Reply Amy at 2:59 pm

    I had the same thing happen a couple of times looking for rental homes in Falls Church and north Arlington in December. Weird email responses from “abroad” and discrepancies in pricing between Craigslist and Zillow. Ended up going through a management company to rent our house because we could check up on them and see if they were legit. I reported the few scams I got to Zillow but they don’t seem to have a very strong vetting system in place if this scam is as rampant as it seems like looking at these posts. 

  • Reply Anotheryarn at 3:11 pm

    Eeek.  This is way worse than the annoying “you can buy a home!” ads I noticed peppered in between real rental listings last time I checked.

  • Reply Lauren Margaret at 3:32 pm

    First of all, Mike and I look at Craigslist, Zillow, and HotPads all the time – so I think you’re not a nut 🙂

    Second, I’m really really glad you posted about this because people need to be aware! When we were looking for an apartment last April/May, we came across dozens of these. After a while I got in the habit of sending a cursory “Hi, can you send me more information” email just to see what came back, then if it was definitely spam I would report the email address as spam. Unfortunately that’s kind of all we can do 🙁

    • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode at 4:28 pm

      Lauren, that’s a good point about sending a cursory email just to find out if it’s legit. It’s so frustrating to have to even worry about that though.

  • Reply Anna Hull at 4:20 pm

    Ugg.  That’s obnoxious.  =(  I have sent money overseas to Africa, though.  Although I was sending it to friends I lived with in SA, so I guess that’s a little different.  =)

  • Reply Tricia at 4:22 pm

    We had a similar experience, but it wasn’t as obvious. Amazing apartment, cheap rent, even had real information about our town. But when we asked to see it, they told us that because of the level of interest, they were requiring applications before showing the apartment. They didn’t ask for money, but they wanted social security #s, etc. Luckily we realized it was a scam and didn’t send them any info. (There was also no way to contact them except via email).

  • Reply Julie B at 4:54 pm

    Oh wow.  I had no idea that kind of thing was happening.  Horrible!!!

  • Reply Lifeinrehab at 5:06 pm

    Wow, that’s pretty wild! Was a goat mentioned in the security?

  • Reply DecorandtheDog at 8:35 pm

    1. What a giant bummer.  2.  HOLY COW, I can’t believe how much rent is in DC.  I love Iowa. 😛

  • Reply Kalanicut at 8:37 am

    I found this same thing on Craigslist last year. The owner of the beachfront apartment was “living in England…” yada yada…right. So frustrating!

  • Reply Xtinax01 at 8:50 am

    When we move to NC we were faced with the same thing. It is frustrating that someone can appeal to the heart of people to take their money. Like you, we realized it was a scam too. I reported it and it was taken down but I still see them sometimes for different places and it drives me crazy that something can’t be done about it.

  • Reply Kelli S. at 10:01 am

    Dear Jane, my name is Kelli and I am the actual owner of the home in your article.  I cannot express how grateful I am that you contacted us and made us aware of this situation.  We have had a few people fall victim to this false ad and had to explain to them that it was some unkind scammers messing with them.  They were so disappointed and we just feel awful about it.  For most of my young adult life I was a renter and I know how hard it is not only to find a place within our budgets, but also to sift through the multitude of poorly written and poorly photographed adverts.  This is why I try really hard to give the full picture of our property with really clear photos.  Our lives are busy and the online sources can be such an incredible tool and time saver.  It’s sad that there are folks like this who abuse a wonderful free system.

    Sadly, this is my second experience with these sorts of scammers on Craigslist.  About three years ago I listed  stained glass chandelier for sale on Craigslist.  I took good photos, gave dimensions, etc… so I wouldn’t have to answer a million questions.  Well, I then got a response from someone claiming to be a personal buyer for someone else.  Because this was a fairly substantial piece of interior decor I figured it to be legit.  He said he would send me a money order (I said no personal checks, just cash or money order) and he did.  Within a few days I received a money order that was ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS OVER the asking price of the chandelier.  (That should have been a big warning flag to me, but I honestly had no idea these things were going on)  So, I immediately sent him an email saying he had sent too much money, there had apparently been an error.  What was interesting was the name on the money order was not his, but according to him that was the name of his client.  He instructed me to cash the money order and then he would send his delivery people over to box up the item.  He then said, “Keep an extra hundred for yourself and give the excess to my delivery men.”  FINALLY, my eyes opened to what was going on!

    I did a little research and sure enough it turned out these folks were stealing people’s checking account information and buying money orders in their names.  So, I got online and tracked down the woman whose name was on the money order.  I sent her an email and she called me immediately.  She said these people were ruining her life buying these money orders with her information and name, then after the money orders have been cashed and processed and eventually found to have been fraudulent, those who cashed the money order were forced to repay the money.  She said she had very scary trucking company employees showing up at her home demanding the money! She begged me to not cash it, and of course, not only did I not cash it I called the authorities.  They did nothing more than take a report, of course.

    It getseven better.  I then decided to email this conman and give him a piece of my mind.  I told him I knew he was a scammer and there were special “places” for folks like him.  Well, would you believe he STILL continued to try and talk me into cashing it?  He started calling me and insisted over and over that it was legit.  Even after I told him I talked to the owner of the account he still insisted I cash it that the “money order was good”!  Well, as you can imagine I told him where to go.

    So, to this day I still have that crazy chandelier because I was so put off by Craigslist.  Years later we try it out again, and this happens.  I told my husband I think part of the problem is that the photos get too much attention.  They attract this sort.  So, moral of the story, you get what you pay for.  If it’s free, people will abuse it and there is little recourse.  It’s a buyer beware situation.  

    All that said, I’d like to say thank you again for your willingness to take the time to notify us.  Not only for us, but for those poor people who got their hopes up and then dashed.  It’s nice to know there are some kind hearted people out there who work to make a difference.  Thank you!!


  • Reply Good Massage at 1:43 am

    Hello! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you
    using for this website? I’m getting fed up of WordPress because I’ve
    had problems with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  • Leave a Reply

    hd porno izle travesti sikis turbanli porno