CMPD unsure how to prevent online rental scams until there’s a victim

Craigslist rental scam

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Online there are thousands of rental listings in Charlotte but finding one for the right price can be tough.

“With rental prices going up I could see why a consumer would turn to craigslist and see these low rates,” real estate agent Deanna Evans said.

Evans called WBTV after she says someone reached out to her and informed her that a house she was selling was also available for rent on craigslist.

“I told her it’s definitely not for rent it’s for sale,” Evans said.

Then it happened again.

“The following day another individual contacted me and let me know that they had also almost been scammed out of money,” Evans said.

The Craigslist scammer wrote one would-be renter that they were in Houston working for UNICEF and the rent was only $650 because “it is not the money that really matters.”

“Fortunately neither one of them were actually taken for their money,” Evans said.

Evans says she called CMPD

“They told me there was nothing they could do,” Evans said.

“They basically said a crime had not been committed.”

WBTV asked CMPD financial crimes investigator Sergeant Seth Green why that would be the case.

“Well we’re going to need a victim on this type of things,” Green said.

“In this circumstance … nobody was victimized, nobody actually sustained a loss of money.”

“Can CMPD do anything to prevent victim from happening in this case?” a WBTV reporter asked.

“We don’t necessarily patrol craigslist or patrol the internet for these type of things,” Green said.

It turns out it’s not too difficult to intentionally get in touch with someone running an online rental scam.

WBTV was able to get in contact with a scammer on another craigslist post on a house for rent. WBTV confirmed the house was owned by someone else.

Someone responded to WBTV’s email inquiry asking about the property and eventually the scammer started texting the WBTV reporter.

The scammer said the house was available now and that utilities and repairs would be covered.

The person behind the craigslist post said that they would send a Moneygram order for the $1150 dollars rent and deposit but only after a rental application was filled out with personal information.

“Is that something CMPD could do to try and identify who some of these scammers are?” a WBTV reporter asked Sgt Green.

“Certainly. Any type of information that you can gather that could also be used as evidence against this scammer collect it,” Green said.

Green says that consumers should not exchange any money or personal information unless they have a lease in hand.

“It they’re not letting you see the property you probably do not need to be doing business with this individual,” Green said.

But Evans wishes there were more CMPD could do than just provide tips.

“It seems to me that if we’re trying to prevent crime and stop things like this from happening that there would be a resource available that it wouldn’t require talking to the news,” Evans said.

Evans also mentioned that perspective renters can call and work with a real estate at no cost to them.

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