Craigslist Scam Cheats Renters

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RENO, Nev.-- An alert about the latest scam that's growing in our area, this one happening online. It uses Craigslist to advertise homes for rent, but in reality, the home isn't even owned by the person who is listing it.

It happened recently to a group of young men looking to move away from home. They made the deal entirely online, and were shocked when they never got the keys.

This Craigslist post had everything to indicate it was legitimate. There was a great description of the house, pictures of inside and out, and a landlord who was eager to get tenants in around the first of the month.

When it was time to move out of his mom's house, Derrick Thomas and his friends went where many people do, the housing section of Craigslist.

"We have been looking for a house for about a month now. Then we could not find one... Then we found a house on Craigslist," said Derrick.

It seemed like a steal. 800 bucks for a three-bedroom, two-bath in a nice part of town.

"It seemed a little too good to be true," said Derrick.

It was too good to be true; they were being scammed. The person they were dealing with wasn't even the owner of the home, but they wouldn't come to that realization for another few days.

"So he Is like 'yeah, just go by, go look at it and then if you really want to, go in. Send me the money and we will send you a key,'" said Derrick, talking about his email conversation with the scammer.

That key never came even though the group sent a $500 deposit.

"The real people that own the house. He was using their identity for it and its really bad. He needs to stop doing that," said Preston Johnson.

Scammers go on websites like Zillow or Trulia to get pictures and information for real houses. Then they post an ad on Craigslist and wait for someone to bite.

"He was like, 'I am a churchgoing guy. I don't want you to think I am trying to scam you or anything like that so we were actually trying to trust this guy," said Derrick.

Trusting him is ultimately what made them the victims of this scam.

"If a guy tells you to send money online and he lives in a different state, do not do it," said Preston.

To avoid being scammed, follow these tips. Never send money online or rent a place sight unseen. When you learn the address, Google it and you may find the property for sale elsewhere. Finally, if it is somewhere else online or if you see a for sale sign out front, call the listing agent because they'll know what's going on with the property.