By Becky Bower
Craigslist is a great tool to promote your vacancies and attract a ton of new, interested applicants, but it isn’t without its problems. The online classified site is notorious for being the playground for identity thieves, scammers, and digital criminals – and your rental properties could be their next target.
Craigslist rental scams aren’t new, and most rental applicants are pros at spotting fake vacancy listings. Nowadays, listings with no photos, an unusually low price point, or a fishy email address are considered universal signs for a scam… but that doesn’t cover the entire scope of Craigslist rental scams. Born out of laziness, digital thieves have come up with a new scam that can negatively impact landlords’ reputations.
Rather than drafting their own vacancy description, scammers have begun stealing vacancy listings from unsuspecting landlords. Everything from the pictures you use down to your rental requirements (and even website) is taken by these thieves and reuploaded, but with their contact information.
This has affected rental property owners across the U.S. in different ways. On one end of the spectrum, a scammer might take your rental listing in Los Angeles, California and post it on another Craigslist board altered to say the property is in Atlanta, Georgia. If this happens, you’ll probably never know or be negatively impacted by it. On the other end, if a scammer reposts your listing in the same Craigslist board, you might get applicants coming to you expecting a different rental price, pet policy, or whatever else the Craigslist scammer altered. Even if you don’t get direct negative feedback, you’ll lose out on qualified rental applicants because they’ve already written off your listing as a scam when they contacted “you”.
So, what can you do? Periodically check to see if your vacancy is being used by scammers.
- Go to Berify’s reverse image search This free service allows you to search 5 images
- Upload your rental property’s picture Make sure it’s the same picture you’ve used in all your listings!
- Check what comes up
If you find any vacancy listings that you’re not sure are yours or not, check the description. Does it have all your requirements? Is the address correct? Is the contact information provided your information? If you find a fake listing, immediately flag the post and put out a PSA on your social media.
Another great way to ward off a negative impact on your reputation (and potentially help with angry applicants) is by adding a disclaimer at the end of your listings. Of course, Craigslist scammers will still be able to steal your listing and remove your disclaimer, but they might be more hesitant to do so if they know you’re aware of the scam.
While Craigslist is an amazing marketing tool, it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect your reputation. Even if you decide to never post on Craigslist again your rental property listings could still be stolen and used to scam your potential renters. Be wary and good luck!
Becky Bower is a marketer and writer that specializes in multifamily legislative trends. As Contemporary Information Corporation (C.I.C.)’s communications executive, she authors in-depth guides on how to manage, grow, and scale within the rental housing industry on The CIC Blog and the ApplyConnect Blog. Follow her work on LinkedIn @CICReports.