WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Whether it's renting a home or buying a used TV, Craigslist.com is an easy and inexpensive way to find the things you need. But as one Wilmington woman learned, there's a good reason the website comes with a warning.
Melissa Hooton found her dream house through the online classifieds. She said it was a lot easier than trying to go through a realtor. But as it turns out, it wasn't that easy to rent from the person who posted the home.
According to the ad, the furnished house for rent in the Ogden area was owned by a man in West Africa. Craigslist.com poster Cathi Faulkner promised the 4-bedroom home at 7603 Charred Pine Drive for just $700 a month.
Melissa's husband decided to go check out the address to make sure it was legit. She said a beautiful home stood on Charred Pine Drive so they sent an application. In return, the craigslist poster sent a list of demands.
Melissa said the poster wanted her to wire him $500 and the first month's rent before he sent the keys or let her see inside the house.
The real owner of Melissa's dream home doesn't live in West Africa. In fact, the house is currently being rented by Tom Berry.
"This is for rent by our friend that lives in Kentucky, but he don't live in," said Berry, who added his friend had never been to Africa.
Melissa held onto her security deposit, but gave away her personal information in the transaction. That kind of payment, she says, should be a life lesson to everyone.
You can sidestep would-be scammers by following these common-sense rules:
- Deal locally with folks you can meet in person - follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99% of the scam attempts on craigslist.
- Never wire funds via western union, moneygram or any other wire service - anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer.
- Fake cashier checks & money orders are common, and banks will cash them and then hold you responsible when the fake is discovered weeks later.
- Craigslist is not involved in any transaction, and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services, or offer "buyer protection" or "seller certification"
- Never give out financial information (bank account number, social security number, ebay/paypal info, etc.)
- Avoid deals involving shipping or escrow services and know that only a scammer will "guarantee" your transaction.
Who should I notify about fraud or scam attempts?
- FTC toll free hotline: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357)
- FTC online complaint form
- Canadian PhoneBusters hotline: 888-495-8501
- Competition Bureau Canada: 800-348-5358
- Internet Fraud Complaint Center
- Software Piracy (http://www.siia.net/piracy/report.asp)
- Non-emergency number for your local police department.
If you suspect that an item posted for sale on craigslist may be part of a scam, please email the details to "firstname.lastname@example.org". Be sure to include the URL (or 10-digit post ID number) in your message.