Periodically, Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty receives calls from consumers regarding internet scams on Craig’s List. The reports outline similar claims and patterns of fraudulent activity. The incidents reported include consumers searching for rental housing in the Greater Burlington area using Craiglist.com, a site featuring free on-line classified listings. Generally, the consumer will see a rental listing advertised on the website including a property description and photos of home for a below market rental fee. In all instances, the homes advertised as rental properties have actually been properties listed for sale, not for rent, by a local real estate company. One consumer, Amanda Thomson and her fiancé agreed to share their story with us in hopes of educating other renters and home buyers in the Greater Burlington Area.
Amanda was looking for a home to rent in Burlington, “I fell in love with the house, but there was something about it that didn’t seem right,” said Amanda. After receiving the request for a deposit in exchange for a key to the property, Amanda felt uneasy and did some more research. The property was not for rent. She fortunately realized it before sending a deposit. “The Internet is certainly a powerful and effective marketing vehicle to promote real estate,” says Leslee MacKenzie, President/Owner of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty, “The issues we discovered on Craigslist are certainly not limited to our marketplace, but a growing issue across the country. It’s a reminder for everyone that the Internet serves as a great tool, but not a replacement for conducting business face-to-face with people - especially when it involves a major purchase or financial decision.”
According to the Vermont Attorney General’s office, the best form of protection from such scams is public awareness. While in it may seem easy to see certain triggers that may have indicated a hoax; often when you’re dealing with something as personal as finding a place to live in a market that has a low vacancy rate, tenants are under pressure to find something and are holding on to hope. To help consumers recognize on-line fraud as it relates to real estate, Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty offers a few Internet reminders:
If you or someone you know comes across a property on-line that just seems "too good to be true" - give us a call. We're happy to try and verify any information that may seem somewhat out of the ordinary.