Adventures with a short term rental profiteer

Originally published at: Adventures with a short term rental profiteer | Boing Boing


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FWIW, I’ve used for several years and have had good experiences with them.

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Last month I got pretty far into a craigslist email exchange about a short-term rental in San Diego before thinking to google the address and finding the same listing word-for-word on VRBO and marked as booked for the same period.

This scammer was fairly sophisticated, too – usually I expect an eager cash-hungry scammer but this one asked for references and made repeated nervous comments about housekeeping… they were going to make me really work to lose my money. The quality of craigslist grifting has really improved over the years!


Craigslist scammer has photos from when the place was listed for sale with staged interior and all. It looks like an IKEA furnished short-term rental in the photos and Scammer uses the language from that marketing, so it sounds legit and looks legit. I’ve seen several tenants suffer exasperated foreign tourists baffled to have been scammed and now stuck standing in an alley in Venice after dark with all their bags.


I’m trying to think of how to avoid this with my own property. Watermark each image with posting site and date? Come to think of it, arbnb/vrbo/zillow could do that themselves on every listing.


I’m in nearby Mar Vista. We built an additional small house in our back yard, and have listed it as a (long-term) rental. People keep coming by to look, having been sent by some mysterious guy who is “the broker.”

To make a long story short, scammers have scraped all my pictures and ad copy, cloned the rental listing, and are advertising it on their own web sites and on Craigslist at about 65% for the actual rent. They claim it’s still occupied but that people can reserve it by wiring a bunch of money to a specific bank account. Potential renters are told that they can’t yet go inside the house because of the current residents, but they are welcome to view it from the outside.

I’ve tried to have the scammer’s web site taken down, but their hosting company’s fraud department wants a police report before they’ll do anything. The cops won’t generate a report because I haven’t been scammed, so in their mind there’s no crime. It’s frustrating. The Chase bank where the scammers want the funds transferred isn’t interested in talking to us either. Craigslist took down the spurious listing when I submitted a DMCA claim on the pictures they’d scraped from my real listing.

I just hope that nobody gets suckered out of their first/last/deposit money. It’s really shitty that there’s all these pitfalls out there for people who are just trying to find a place.


If you watermark the images, you either have to splat the watermark across the whole thing, or scammers will crop the image to remove it.

Or, they’ll just copy them anyway.

The watermarks could help if you issue a takedown request on copyright grounds (which may be the only approach that works to get the listings taken down).


When I was looking for a new apartment a few years ago it was really frustrating how many craigslist ads were completely fake. Sometimes they didn’t even try very hard-- cut and paste an ad from Texas or California, complete with an address that is clearly not applicable to Boston, and with photos of the house showing palm trees in the background. And when they did do a believable job it was easy to spot the fake when they replied to queries, because it would then be a cut-and-paste job of “I am out of town doing missionary work in South America, please fill out this form with your social security and credit card numbers.”

They are scum. Ruining people’s vacation plans, potentially leaving them far from home without additional money or options for lodging? This is a notoriously unfriendly part of Los Angeles to tourists after dark. Homeowners have to fight fines for illegal listings they didn’t have, get woken up in the middle of the night by folks looking for their rental? A lovely way to make a living.


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