Property Rental 'Money Order' Scam On Craigslist Swindles Locals

POSTED: 04:46 AM MDT Apr 05, 2012    UPDATED: 10:23 AM MDT Apr 06, 2012 

A property-rental scam is showing up around eastern Idaho, and it has already cheated a handful of people out of hundreds of dollars.

Our station uncovered the so-called "money order" rental scam after a call from a local property manager. The scam takes advantage of would-be renters and property management companies by literally copying and pasting photos and descriptions of rental properties from a property management website.

With the photos, the scammer puts an ad of their own up on marketplace website Craigslist, offering the same property at a much lower price.

?The whole time, throughout the whole thing, I was suspicious," said Jade Evans, who lost $400 to a money order scam. "But I wanted it to be true so bad, that I ignored it."

Evans said she ignored the feeling in her gut that said a two-bedroom home at 903 Bannock in Idaho Falls couldn't cost just $400 a month. She said the offer sounded amazing, and she contacted the man who posted the home on Craigslist.

"Here he is talking about how he's sorry we can't see the inside of the house," she said, as she showed our station emails between her and a man who called himself "Pastor Farmer."

Farmer said he was a missionary from Idaho Falls serving a mission in Nigeria. If she wired a $400 check for a deposit, the house would be hers.

"I felt more violated than anything," she said.

The house is actually for rent at $650 a month, and it's managed by Clint Collins at Idaho Falls Rentals. The Craigslist post Evans saw was a scam and pulled photos directly from the property management website.

"Over the last two weeks we've seen a huge uptake in the number of calls we're getting on Craigslist scams and bad ads, and people trying to figure out which ads are real and which ones aren't," said Collins.

It was too late for Evans. She wired the $400 via MoneyGram. She even confronted the man over the phone when he asked for more cash.

"I thought, 'You don't really own that house, do you??" she said. "And then he hung up on me."

That's the last Evans heard from him. She filed a police report and a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crimes Unit.

Bonneville County Sheriff spokesman Jeff Edwards said once your cash is out of the country, there's little to no chance of getting it back.

Collins said there are five simple ways to tell if a Craigslist ad is a scam:

1. The person listing the property and asking for money is not local.

2. The poster can't get you in to see the property.

3. The poster wants you to send money out of the country.

4. The poster is unable to provide you with a receipt or lease agreement at time of payment.

5. If the rent price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.