Sequim Gazette staff
Sequim Police are warning residents of rental scams circulating the area through an online classified website.
Sequim Police Officer Maris Turner said scammers are using www.craigslist.org to post false rental listings.
A local real estate agent alerted the police after someone saw a Craigslist ad for a rental home, drove by the home, saw a for sale sign outside and decided to call the listing agent to see if it was for rent or not, she said. The house was not for rent and the ad was fraudulent.
Turner said this is how the scam works: In a number of recent cases, scammers have taken information from real estate ads placed in local newspapers or advertised online, copying photos of the houses for sale, and posted classified ads on Craigslist that have convinced potential renters that they (the scammers) were renting these houses.
In some instances, scammers wanted just a little money from people, Turner said. They exchanged e-mails with victims, claiming they (the fake landlords) were outside the country.
Then, they asked the victims to send small sums of money to receive copies of the house keys, so the victims can walk through the premises themselves, she said.
Craigslist recommends people deal with local people they can meet in person and recognize foreign phone numbers as a red flag. Never wire funds via Western Union, Money Gram or any other wire service — anyone who asks you to do so probably is a scammer — and know that fake cashier’s checks and money orders are common and banks will cash them and then hold you responsible when the fake is discovered weeks later.
Do not give private information out over the phone or Internet unless you initiated the contact; it is illegal for telemarketers to request that information to verify a prize or gift. Look closely at offers that come through e-mail or in the mail.
Be wary of mail or e-mails promising “free” vacations, foreign lotteries, cashier’s check scams, work-at-home offers or schemes that ask for your money up front. Beware of cheap home repair work that otherwise would be expensive. If you receive an offer that seems to good to be true, it probably is a scam or a con.
Turner said victims of scams or identity theft can file a report with police, file a fraud complaint at www.fraud.org and www.consumer.gov/sentinel and, if the crime occurred using the Internet, file a complaint at www.ic3.gov.