Watch out for this Real Estate Scam

If someone bilked you out of $500, would the police pursue the case? Would you pursue the case? (If you said ‘yes’ to that last question, you are probably making the assumption that the money would be recovered quickly. The longer and more effort it takes, the less likely you’ll continue to pursue the case…or collect anything.)

The latest Real Estate scam counts on it not being “worth the time” to track down the culprit. Here’s how it works:

1. The scammer rents an Airbnb with a stolen credit card and a burner phone.
2. The scammer uses the photos online and information to advertise a room for rent on Craig’s List.
3. On the date of the Airbnb rental the scammer shows up, obtains the key, and makes copies.
4. During the rental period the scammer shows the room, provides a bogus ‘contract’ to sign, collects a deposit and provides the ‘renter’ with a key.

Some scammers have several “showings” a day, collecting several thousand dollars from unwitting victims. Most victims don’t bat an eye at the fact that the funds are requested in cashier’s checks as that is a normal request of legitimate landlords.

This scam is particularly successful because the scammer checks all the boxes: receipt of funds, contract, key…all appearances point to a legitimate transaction. It is also successful for the scammer because the amount that s/he scams individual victims out of is small enough that the likelihood of the victim to try to or be able to recover it is low.