Anatomy of a rental phishing scam

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Seems to me that using Craigslist for rental listings is a recipe for disaster and i wonder why she was using it in the first place. However her background does give her the ability to spot BS and having her share her story is very much appreciated… don’t use Craigslist though. My experience with the site has never been positive.


Another tip for checking on scam URLs:

If you use a password manager (1Password for me), the browser plugin will display logins only from the URL domains associated with the active URL. In this case, it wouldn’t show up my AirBNB login.

The thing to remember is: Do not search for and manually enter the password! There’s a reason it’s not showing up by default.

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It’s been a decade, but we used Craigslist to successfully buy a trumpet for my daughter. Still, even then it felt shady. I can’t imagine risking it for a large transaction.

For awhile, for me, it was because the 1Password plugin had stopped working with my browser. It seems to be sorted out now.

Yeah i don’t think that using craigslist to find a rental is wise, i’d at least rather start with sites dedicated to doing such a thing. There can still be scams there from what i’ve read but at least the site itself has a responsibility towards the customer unlike Craigslist.

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Craigslist is a miasma of fake real estate listings. I spent a year looking for a new place and you quickly notice anything affordable is fake. However there were enough legit ads to keep you coming back.

What he’s describing is a very detailed version of stuff I’ve seen on craigslist before. The landlord is always somewhere else, incommunicado, a lot of times it’s the same boilerplate (and ridiculous) “I am away on missionary work in (someplace), praise the Lord Amen” which is a dead giveaway.

I too have seen examples of the phishers stealing an identity, including personal photos and backstory to sell the scam. The strangest was getting a “landlord” who used an email from what appeared to be an undergrad at a Canadian community college (I suppose it’s possible, but it sure seemed unlikely.)

They also cut-and-paste legit ads, steal photos from Zillow or similar sites. I took to doing a google search for exact long phrases-- you’d find their description was either A.) taken from another site, word for word, and/or B.) posted on craigslist in multiple states at the same time.


Is now a good time to say eff ICANN and their gotta-approve-them-all top-level domain cash grab that makes this kind of visual domain spoofing easier. It’s harder to spot the true TLD in the scam URL because there are so many TLDs they look like ordinary words rather than TLDs.

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I’ve never used anything but CL for renting. No problems.

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“Often people are told to watch out for poor grammar and formatting to protect against phishing.”

Many scammers intentionally use flaws like that to scare off the more cautious people so they only have to spend time talking to those gullible enough to fall for the scam.


Craigslist is a medium just like any other listing service. I found my cat, car, even my previous house on Craigslist. Yes there are scams but to say “don’t use Craigslist” due to a few scams is pretty shortsighted. I’m sad to see it seemingly fade away in preference to the horrid Facebook Marketplace.

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Craigslist is a towering mountain of noxious chaff dotted here and there with kernels of the wheat you are seeking.

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My son just got a job in a city that’s 2000 miles from us. He and I looked for an apartment last month. We used several options (mostly brokers), but the best place we found was an owner who’d posted his place just as we were finishing our 5 day search. We saw the place, met the owner and decided right then to sign a lease.

He just moved in 2 weeks ago, without any issues. No doubt that we were lucky, but skipping out on CL searches would mean missing out on (easily) the best option available in his price range.

We did so some diligence in checking out the owner (and the building), and both of us expressed some trepidation in not going through a broker with such a long distance move, but we are both glad that he’s there now.

This was one of many positive experiences I’ve had with Craigslist over the past decade.

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I’ve rented my last four houses from Craigslist. Never had any problems.


I bought “Old Green” via Craigslist. What a tractor! And I got it at a great price – the only problem was making the seller take my second half-payment, he kept wanting to tell me tractor stories …

Update: Literally. I must have stood there for eight, nine minutes, with $1500 cash in my hand, making “Yup, here’s the money, got this rental trailer, time’s a-tickin” sounds while the seller kept rhapsodizing … oh, he loved that tractor.

It worked out okay, the seller did eventually take my money, which he said is going towards a larger machine, a backhoe.

Still, Old Green is the cutest beast I ever did see, with lots of attachments (not shown here), so I can’t blame the guy for getting misty-eyed.



“Their English was perfect, their emails looked professional”
I’m sorry if this seems snobbish, but no- as soon as I read the first email it sounded off:
“So I’m used to rent the place short term”
“If you’re gonna rent the place”
“How many people are you going to move in”
It’s not bad enough that I wouldn’t respond- there are a lot of people who don’t write perfectly- but I definitely would have been wary after getting a message like that.

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