PARMA - Authorities have a warning for Northeast Ohioans. Several local people have been ensnared by a national Craigslist scam involving rental property.
Roger Scheve, a Remax Beyond 2000 agent from Middleburg Heights, first discovered the con when his phone began ringing.
"Two weeks ago I started getting these strange calls saying is this property for rent?" said Scheve.
Scheve researched the caller’s claims and learned one of his listings was posted on Craigslist by someone using an Austin, Texas area code. The home was advertised for $550 a month, plus utilities, when similar properties were being rented for closer to $900.
"I was taken aback," he said.
Sue McConnell from Cleveland's Better Business Bureau said her office is no stranger to complaints of rental property scams.
"Scammers will look on real estate sites, legitimate real estate sites, they'll lift the pictures of homes that are for sale or rent, they'll put up their own phony rental list online, they'll use those pictures, lie about the location and try to trip you into sending money," said McConnell.
She said there are several red flags of which consumers should be aware:
- An out of town landlord
- Payment demanded by wire transfer
- A below average rental price
- Contact only by Email
- No address listed for the property
The con artist behind Scheve’s listing fit three of the six warning signs. Scheve said now more than ever, consumers need to be cautious.
"I often will tell a tenant you should interview your landlord or interview the property owner just as much as they're going to interview you," he said.
Parma’s Law Director issued a warning to consumers, saying “Everyone must be diligent in their financial affairs, especially when sending money out of state to a party they do not know.” He advised anyone who believes they’ve fallen prey to the Craigslist Scam to contact Parma Police at 440-885-1234.