The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Realty firm warns against Craigslist scam
BY BILL FREEHLING
A Fredericksburg-area real estate brokerage and management firm is warning of a scam it recently encountered that involves rental properties listed on Craigslist.
Staff members at Johnson & Glazebrook Inc. have recently seen properties that their firm is representing listed on Craigslist, even though they did not post the material. The properties are listed for rent for extremely low prices.
The real estate firm recently got a call from a person who was interested in a local property listed on Craigslist. She was told to send her money to an address out of the country, and that she could then move in. The woman noticed the Johnson & Glazebrook sign in the yard when she looked at the home, and, sensing something was off, called the firm.
The woman later flagged the post on Craigslist, and it was taken down.
“A similar situation happened to us back in December, and we received quite a few calls about some of our listings fraudulently posted on Craigslist,” said Stephanie Rowe, administrative assistant at Johnson & Glazebrook, in an email.
Local Realtors say that type of scam has long been a problem in the Fredericksburg area and beyond. They say Craigslist is good about removing the fraudulent ads when they’re flagged, but additional ads keep popping up.
A customer of a former RE/MAX Bravo agent lost about $5,000 through this type of scam a couple of years ago, said Jane Wallace, co-owner of the Spotsylvania County-based firm.
One of the agent’s properties was listed for rent fraudulently on Craigslist, and a woman pounced on the deal because the price was so low. She sent an email to the address given, thinking she was communicating with the RE/MAX Bravo agent. The woman received a response from the scammer that he was in the hospital in England, so everything would have to be done through mail or Federal Express.
The victim sent the first month’s rent and security deposit after being promised she would then get the keys, Wallace said. When she didn’t, she tracked down the agent, who knew nothing about the affair.
Wallace said several additional RE/MAX Bravo agents have found their rental listings on Craigslist over the past couple of years.
A spokeswoman for Craigslist could not be reached for comment, but its website posts tips for users on how to sniff out a scam and take steps to avoid becoming a victim. They include:
Deal locally with people you can meet in person.
Never wire or ship funds to someone on Craigslist or give out financial information.
Do not rent housing without seeing the interior.
Craigslist says most scams involve an inquiry from someone far away who refuses to meet face-to-face.
Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405