Avoid the rental scam on Craigslist

Posted: August 3rd, 2018 | Featured, Politics | 1 Comment

By District Attorney Summer Stephan

As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and you, the community. One way I have been doing that is through this monthly column, where I provide consumer tips on public safety matters.

San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan (Courtesy photo)

We’ve all been in a situation where we have seen or heard something that sounds too good to be true, especially when browsing online sales or ads. Nowhere does this ring truer than when scouring Craigslist in search of rental property or when listing a rental. With the kids out of school, summer is a perfect time to look for a new place to live. Don’t fall prey to the old trick of an out-of-towner needing your bank information to deposit funds for your rental and especially don’t pay money for a anything site unseen. Keep these tips in mind when looking for property.

Craigslist rental scams are usually phony ads in which the scam artist pulls photos off of real estate or apartment rental websites. The trickster will make it seem like he or she owns or controls the unit. In addition, the bad actor usually advertises below-market rent or some other “act fast” hook to get people to send deposits to hold the unit.

When looking for a home or apartment to rent:

  • Beware of ads where the rent is significantly below market.
  • Always verify the physical address of the home by visiting the location.
  • Make sure the person advertising the home has keys and can show you the inside of the unit.
  • Google the address and run the address on local MLS ( to check for foreclosure sales, lien sales, etc. If a house is in foreclosure, do not rent it.
  • Do not wire money or pay deposits until you have seen the home, and get a written receipt for deposits.
  • Get a written lease with clear terms.

When renting out a home:

  • Cashier’s checks can be counterfeited as easily as regular checks, make sure the check clears the bank before delivering possession of the house or apartment.
  • Run a credit check on the prospective tenants.
  • Ask for references.
  • Give a written receipt for deposits.
  • Get a written lease with clear terms.
  • Review landlord tenant law or consult a realtor or lawyer so you know when legal notice is due.

The theme here is to remind you to make sure the person you are dealing with is real and that the place for rent is real. When you drive by the location, there should be a visible “For Rent” sign. When something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Listen to your instincts.

— District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated more than 28 years to serving justice and victims of crime as prosecutor. She is a national leader in fighting sex crimes and human trafficking and in creating smart and fair criminal justice solutions and restorative justice practices that treat the underlying causes of addiction and mental illness and that keep young people from being incarcerated.

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One Comments

  1. sumwalt says:

    Potential scam listed on Craigslist, found 10-1-18, for property located at 2704 Poinsettia Dr. San Diego CA 92106. Significantly under market value, scammer communicated asking for quite a lot of personal info and deposit saying keys would be shipped fedex. Did not communicate back, but happy to forward his email for investigation if required. Thank you

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