Craigslist posters often scrape photos from Realtor listings and use them to enhance the credibility of fraudulent offers. The most common form of fraud is rental service agents advertising listings with which they have no connection, and then advising respondents that the property has been rented but that they have many similar offerings to show them.
Craigslist fraudsters also solicit advance online payment for goods they don't own, for services they'll never provide and for the rental of properties with which they have no connection.
Vera Perner of Coldwell Banker recently learned that one of her listings in the South Loop was being offered as a nightly vacation rental on Craigslist. The advertised rate for renting a "top floor 2 bedroom, 2 bath luxury corner residence with panoramic views of lake, parks, harbor, museum campus and the city" was a mere $100 a night plus a $300 security deposit. She sent me the following email, which I've edited to remove some identifying information:
I need your urgent assistance in stopping criminal activity in the housing / vacation rental section of Craigslist.
A Chicago Realtor colleague forwarded me her correspondence with a person who uses Craigslist to rent out property and collect money for property – which is my listing and is owned by my clients.
The person's "name" is Kyle J. Sanders. He is neither an owner nor the renter for this property, nor the Realtor. I've never heard of him.
Can you please stop his scam and please let me know if you need any additional documents / information from me.
I am also copying the owners of this condominium on this e-mail
Vera included a link to the scam ad, which is no longer online. The email thread that Vera forwarded requested payment by bank transfer, included a phone number and offered references. It sounded credible
Let's all be realistic here. No one should have any illusions about Craigslist ever making any serious effort to protect its visitors from con artists and thieves. Facilitating fraud appears to be one of Craigslist's core competencies. If anything, Craigslist perversely encourages the worst kind of degenerates to become members in good standing of its "community."
I can't stop Craigslist fraud. Law enforcement can't stop it. Craigslist can dramatically limit it, but won't.
That leaves you. You can stop Craigslist fraud by never sending a nickel to anyone who solicits it on Craigslist. Don't even think about it. It's not worth the risk when you can easily find legitimate established businesses and deal directly with them.
You can also help by doing what Vera Perner did – seek out avenues to make more people aware of the pitfalls involved in responding to Craigslist ads, and encourage your friends to stop using Craigslist housing ads.