They saw the ad on Craigslist. A house for rent, three bedrooms, one and a half baths, in a nice neighborhood and all for a bargain price.
"They said, 'I just can't believe it all for 550,'" Real Estate Agent and friend of the renters Jennifer Taylor said. "And I said, 'Woah woah woah hold on." She's a woman who knows the area well, and Taylor says the listing put up quite a few red flags for her.
The couple decided to check out the property in person. That's when they discovered people were living there, but the person they had been emailing said the place was vacant. The red flags were piling up.
"Out-of-state seller, they have a really low price, found it online," Taylor said, checking them off. "OK." The records of who owns the property and who is paying property taxes on it are kept with the county, and that information is usually posted online. Taylor looked it up. The name and phone number didn't match the add. Delta Township has the information on who is licensed to rent the property (as any city or township would have on a property within its limits). Taylor called on the house. The Craigslist seller wasn't the man licensed to rent the property either.
"Rental registrations are public record, so if a property is properly licensed then you should be able to look and see that information," Taylor said. She called the registered owner and told him what she knew.
"I wanted him to be aware that someone was doing this to his property," she said.
Someone probably pulled the information from the owner's legitimate ad, posted a fake one with a much lower price, and then asked renters to send money through the mail, says Taylor.
"If you can't meet someone face to face, don't do it, that's a big red flag right there,"
If something seems suspicious, asks for documents to verify is someone really owns the property they are trying to sell or rent, says Taylor.
And if you find a scammer, you can report them to the Michigan Attorney General's office's Customer Complaint division, the report can be filed online.