If you have spent any time on craigslist looking for a place to move, you have probably seen the scams. You know, the houses that are close in and gorgeous, allow pets and are renting for only $600. I myself was tricked by several of those houses when we were looking for a place to move. There is no contact name or number and when you e-mail a reply to the craigslist ad you receive a long sob story letter from a man who had to leave the country quickly but wants to rent his house out to a nice person. It’s the typical scam letter.
Recently one of my company’s houses fell victim to the scam. If anything, it’s annoying because we got tons of calls for a beautiful house in Sellwood that’s actually going for $1650 but has been advertised for $700 and my assistant and I had to be the bearer of this bad news. (The address was listed on the ad so people drove by the house, got our number off of the “for rent” sign and blew up our phone lines with interest). But on the other side, it’s more than annoying, it’s criminal and cruel. I received a call from an elderly woman who was at Western Union to send someone in Nigeria a bunch of money to hold the house. The people at Western Union encouraged her to call us before she sent the money as it was probably a scam. The poor woman was heart broken when I told her that it wasn’t legitimate.
Portland can be a difficult place to find affordable housing. I had several people crying on the phone last summer when apartments were rented out. So a couple of weeks ago when the scammer struck again, I was sitting in my office when I heard the doorbell ring. I went up to open the door and slipped under the door was a packet of forget me not seeds. Confused, I picked them up, opened the door and there was a girl, smiling and happy and talking all at once “I’m SO excited to see you here, I saw you pull up and I thought you might work here and I’m so interested in….” before she get any further I stopped her. “Are you looking at the house in Sellwood? Because it was a scam.” Her face fell “But the for rent signs are still up at the house”. “I know, it just rented out. And it was a scam at $700. Actual rent was $1645.” Without a word she grabbed the seeds out of my hands and ran off crying.