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Warning: Rental scam on Craigslist hits Anaconda property owner

Warning: Rental scam on Craigslist hits Anaconda property owner

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A warning to those looking for a place to rent: scammers have hit Craigslist while targeting an Anaconda landlord’s rental property that’s already rented.

When real estate agent Ed Silverstein of Clearwater Properties alerted landlord Susan Lock that her rental house at 2011 Hamburg in Anaconda was listed on Craigslist, Lock was seriously taken aback because she personally handpicks renters face-to-face. It was a surprise because she never placed a For Rent ad on the popular online site, she said.

So she asked her son-in-law, Ben Courtney, to respond to the strange ad on Craigslist that listed her rental house — despite the fact that it’s been rented for the past 18 months to “stellar” tenants — according to Lock.

The unusually long reply from the scammers was rife with broken English phrases, desperate capitalizations and repeated references to the owner and family having gone overseas “to West Africa for a program called Family Life and HIV Education and the HIV Prevention For Rural Youth Program, … ” written in upper case.

“I guess it’s a fairly common scam that we want to warn people about because Montanans aren’t so used to scammers,” said Lock.

“It’s not hurt me per se, but it could really rip somebody off. The big cities can get away with that. I just don’t want anybody to get stung.”

Lock’s current tenants report that there’s been increased traffic driving past the house and down the alley, so the Craigslist ad has drawn unsuspecting lookers. Duplicate scam ads ran in the Great Falls, Bozeman and Billings versions of Craigslist, as well.

Scammers make money when gullible house hunters looking online send security deposits and rent to blind addresses listed in the postings. This particular ad doesn’t include a blind mailbox, but it features a long specific questionnaire.

Lock’s advice to renters?

“If you can’t actually see the property in person or get a legitimate phone number,” then be skeptical. She prefers to find her renters via word-of-mouth.

Lock flagged the ad on Craigslist to no avail, as the ad remains posted. She also sent a complaint to the website with no response.

Consequently, Lock filed a complaint with the “Scam Alerts” division of the Montana Department of Justice, which is investigating the case.

To report such a scam with state Office of Consumer Protection, go to: https://app.doj.mt. gov/apps/Oscar/reportascam.aspx

For general information about scams (and the latest trending scams), see: https://doj.mt.gov/consumer/scam-alerts/

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