If it Sounds Too Good to Be True – IT IS.

***Update:  The people who moved into our home without authrorization have refused to leave and refused to pay rent, although they have offered $700 per month for six months starting in January (the mortgage plus fees is $1200).  Looks like they may be con artists and not victims after all.  Sigh.****

This post is completely off topic , but as this drama has taken up most of my morning and is truly bizarre I had to share. 

Several years ago, three friends and I purchased a rental property in Cordova, Tennessee.  The house was new, the down payment was low (especially split four ways), and the area was nice.  We have had a series of good renters since that time and have left the management of the property to a property management firm.  

Our latest tenants moved out last Saturday due to a job relocation.  Today I received a phone call from property management asking if we had leased out the house on our own.  Uh, no.  Well, neither did they.  Despite the fact that neither we nor property management leased out the house, someone moved in on Monday or Tuesday.  Someone with 2 dogs, nice furniture and a car in the front yard.

Turns out that Craig’s List is being used yet again for a scam.  In our case, someone took the photos from our property management firm’s listing and advertised the property for rent on Craig’s list for $500 less per month than the real rental rate.  The reply e-mail for the scam? A Yahoo address with my name.  The ad went up on Nov 25, someone quickly took the bait, turned over probably somewhere in the ballpark of $1400 to the scammer and moved-in.

So, what happens next?  For starters a police report is being filed.  Then our property management firm has to post an eviction notice on the door.  If the unauthorized tenants want to stay in the home and can afford the real rental price we would love to have them stay.  We’ll even work out a payment plan on the deposit if necessary and allow them to keep the dogs (we usually only allow one small dog or cat).  If they won’t or can’t, they have 3 days to find a new place to live.  On day 3, the Sheriff removes them and their belongings from the home.

This is a really unfortunate situation for these poor people who signed a fake lease, turned over a substantial sum of money and paid to be moved into a house they have no legal right to live in. 

Please be aware when responding to Craig’s List or other internet type ads.  There are a lot of scams out there.  Bottom line:  if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

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6 Responses

  1. OH MY GOSH! that is crazy. We are looking in to renting our house in Kansas City, any tips on finding a property management company?

    • My only tip would be to ask everyone you know for referrals. Compare all management agreements and scope out the rental listings for a little bit to see what company rents comparable properties the fastest. I’ll e-mail some friends and see if they know of anyone in that area.

  2. OMG! So sorry that you’re going through this — and those poor people 😦 That sucks. I went through something similar sorta.. where my ebay account was fraudulently used. I was sent money for items which people thought that they bought from me, but which i never posted. I of course refunded the money through paypal…. but what a mess! I hope it all gets resolved.

  3. Wow! How bizaar! I have never heard of this one! How did they get a key? We have a rental house in NC and I can’t imagine the nightmare! The poor people who moved in and got scammed. It is very nice of you all to try to help them stay if they can afford it! And what a great investment for you and your friends! Way cool!

    • The people who moved into our house allegedly wired $1200 to some person in Africa and received a phony lease in return. We’ve learned that they moved in by having a locksmith come out to the house, let them in and change the locks. Apparently, all they had to do was show the locksmith the fake lease agreement they signed. We’ve also learned that if they do not leave voluntarily or decide to lease the house, it could take us until January to evict them. I feel really bad for these people if they were truly scammed, on the flip side we have a mortgage to pay and no rental income and no possibility of income until we can rent out the house to someone else.

      Apparently the local tv station is running a story about this and the FBI is aware of this type of scam. It should be posted at http://www.wreg.com sometime after 9pm pacific time. For all those with rental properties be aware and make sure you or your property management embosses or otherwise protects their listings from cut and paste features and monitors Craig’s List. For renters, I would never enter into any lease agreement or wire any money anywhere without first being shown the property by the person purporting to lease it – it’s not fail safe but it’s something. Also, check the similar listings on Craig’s List – our house had 5 legitimate listings and only the one fake listing – they all came up together in the same search. If these people had clicked on the other ads they would have seen the exact same photos with different contact info and a different rental rate.

  4. Oh my gosh…what a nightmare. Those poor people.

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