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Beware Of Fake House Rental Listings On Craigslist
Homes for rent, but the homeowner has no idea! Police call it an internet scam that's gaining popularity as we get closer to South by Southwest, and it could have renters knocking at your door.
"The worst thing would be if someone showed up at my housing thinking they had a rental when they didn't," said a concerned Sharon Walker.
Walker owns a luxurious house near Downtown Austin. It's five bedrooms and four baths and can sleep up to 12 people. It makes for the perfect short term rental during events like South by Southwest.
"My house has been listed on Craigslist probably 25-30 times," said Walker.
The problem with her house being listed on Craigslist, is that Walker isn't the one doing the listing. She's never posted her property on Craigslist to rent. Instead, people are copying her property information and pictures and creating a fake-listing. And it's not just happening with Walker's house; she runs a real-estate rental company called Den STR and fake listing of all of her properties are constantly popping up on other websites.
"They will accept checks, they will accept pay pal, wire transfers, they'll accept all kinds of forms of payment, which makes it seem more legitimate," said Walker of the sophistication of the scams.
Walker says she's gotten dozens of calls from people who believe they've rented her house, only to find out their up-front payment is long gone.
"The last one that I found out about was out of Houston," said Walker of the most recent scam on her house. "I called the police department in Houston and they referred me back to the police department in Austin, who referred me back to the police department in Houston."
Police say these types of internet crimes are tough to prevent and to prosecute.
"Unfortunately, it is very hard," said Cpl. Anthony Hipolito with APD. "Because the majority of times they're not local, they're from out of state, overseas. We do our best using the internet to track down these folks but it's hard, it's nearly impossible for our detectives to find out who's behind the computer."
With the crimes nearly impossible for police to track, Walker says she'll continue policing her own properties. She recommends people use trusted rental websites, with more safeguards in place, rather than free-listing websites like Craigslist when it comes to renting out-of-town properties.
By Karen Kiley