Many people in Northwest Arkansas use Craigslist to buy, sell and trade anything from tractors to jewlery. It is a great resource! There are also many Realtors who use it to advertise the wonderful properties for sale here in this area. I even use it myself. But I have just become aware of a potential misuse of the system!
Are the fish biting?
It appears that a few unscrupulous people are taking houses that are posted for sale, reworking the information to make them appear to be for rent, and then collecting people personal information from a bogus rental or credit application. This type of menace is called phishing. It may look like a legitimate site, but it isn’t and the attackers then use your information for, well, any of several possible things: identity theft, selling to mailing lists, and more stuff I don’t even know about!
Avoiding the hook
This is not necessarily a reason to stop using Craigslist, but it is a reason to be careful. You should always be cautious when providing personal information online. Always make personal contact via phone or (preferably) face-to-face with a potential landlord before providing any personal information. This will protect you from phishing and let you know if you will get along with a person that can make your stay either pleasurable and problem free or frustratingly difficult and full of leaky faucets!
You should also be wary of any request to fill out an application or credit information before you can see a property. I would also be suspicous of any request to fill this type of information out via computer as these types of forms usually require a written signature. But the bottom line is just to be sure you are providing the information (in any form) to a legitimate landlord for legitimate reasons.
Craigslist specific suggestions
When looking for properties on Craigslist follow these suggestions to search in the safest way:
- If you find multiple posts for the same property call me, your Realtor (if you already have one, if not I’d be happy to help), or the listing agent and ask what is going on. This is especially true if one ad is for sale and the other is for rent
- Check the URL of the site where the Craigslist link sends you
- Never enter private information directly into a Craigslist ad page
- If the ad has prevalent bad grammar and misspellings don’t ignore the red flags you are seeing. For some reason most scams have bad grammar and misspellings.
- If it feels fishy it probably is phishy
Don’t take the chance, call to get more information!
I will be happy to help you locate your next rental or new home and together we will identify the hooks and steer clear! After all, the biggest fish in Beaver Lake only got that way by ignoring the hooks!
Please comment with any other suggestions you have for safe browsing on Craigslist or anywhere on the web.