Online scammers tricking prospective renters

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Realtors and Michigan State Police say there has been a recent spike in Craigslist scammers taking advantage of people looking for rental homes.

The fraudulent online rental posts have photos and the fake landlords often provide real information about the property, but the homes aren't really for rent and the people posting advertisements have no connection to them.

Lisa Vela works for Five Star Realty in Muskegon selling homes, so she deals with the problem all the time.

"When my phone starts ringing off the hook and it's a lot of interest in one property all of a sudden, I usually know it's Craigslist," she told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday.

Vela said that a woman recently contacted her office after finding a "for sale" sign in the yard of a house advertised online as a rental. Vela told her the ad was a sham and then contacted the fake landlord pretending to ask for more information. She got a lengthy response back about how to apply.

"There was a lot of Bible verses," Vela said, recapping the response.

With a suspicious email address of bft.cxv@aol.com, the fake landlord rambled about how his family was moving and needed a "God fearing and a good christian" renter. The fraud asked for a $600 security deposit and a monthly payment of $600.

He claimed to be too busy with a new job out of state to show the house.

"He said that we're not able to show it to you, but just drive by and see if it's something that you're interested in," Vela explained.

That, she said, is a red flag.

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