Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Properties scam puts rental ads on Craigslist

If you are hoping to lease a house and using the Internet to search for properties, Craigslist might be among the many sites you visit. But if you aren't careful, a new scam just might cost you a bit of cash.

The fraud involves lifting information about a property from one Web site, and placing it verbatim — pictures included — on Craigslist as a rental. The scammer carefully explains the bargain rent or the need to work remotely since he "must suddenly leave the country for work."

Recently, Joanne DeMase, a property management manager with Alliance Realty in Spring Hill, discovered that her name and several of her company's properties in Hernando County had been listed on Craigslist under this type of scam.

The fake ad included a blurb about DeMase, making it appear as though she owned the home and was moving to England for work. She wasn't interested in price, but was seeking a tenant who would take good care of her home, the ad said.

DeMase learned about the impersonation when she received an e-mail from a prospective tenant. It included an e-mail exchange from a third party using a Yahoo e-mail address and a variation of DeMase's name. There was no mention of where to send money, but the e-mail was riddled with grammatical errors, a common tip-off to potential fraudulent online transactions.

The properties have since been removed from Craigslist, said DeMase, who filed an identity theft report with the Hernando County Sherriff's Office.

"You cannot trust the Internet," said Hernando County Detective Jeff Kraft. "You have to verify what you see."

Kraft recommends additional research, such as going directly to a real estate company's Web site, to verify that you are dealing directly with a real person and not an international scam artist.

Craigslist officials did not respond to a query from the St. Petersburg Times.

Consumers should run a quick check when they see identical or similar ads, said Marla Martin, communications manager with the Florida Association of Realtors. She also warned consumers to keep an eye out for grammatical errors, information from overseas or ads seeking money upfront.

"Money upfront is never a good thing," she said.

While reports of the new scam haven't surfaced in other Tampa Bay counties yet, this type of fraud appears to be growing nationally, with recent reports filed in South Carolina. Officials there say it may have originated in Nigeria.

In addition to contacting local police, victims of fraud or identity theft are encouraged to file a report with the FBI at, Martin said.

Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at

Properties scam puts rental ads on Craigslist 07/29/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 7:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Yankees executive Jessica Steinbrenner seeks restraining order against ex-husband


    TAMPA — Jessica Steinbrenner, a top executive with the New York Yankees and a daughter of the team's late owner George Steinbrenner, is seeking a restraining order against her ex-husband.

    New York Yankees excutive Jessica Steinbrenner, with her then-husband Felix Lopez Jr. in this 2008 photo, filed for a restraining order against Lopez in Hillsborough County last week. 
[Times files]
  2. Hurricane evacuations halted for lack of ambulances at VA's Young center


    As many as 30 patients who should have been evacuated from the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center were left behind during Hurricane Irma because the hospital and the county couldn't agree on where they should go.

    Lorraine Johnson-Mitchell, back home in St. Petersburg on Monday, said she watched in disbelief as hospital staff seemed to scramble without a plan to evacuate patients like her from the VA medical center in St. Petersburg before Hurricane Irma. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. South Florida poaches debris pickup trucks once slotted for Tampa, officials say


    TAMPA — A week into the job of picking up an estimated 300,000 cubic yards of Hurricane Irma debris from its streets, Tampa City Hall is finding to its dismay that the challenge is more competitive than expected.

    Yard debris from the winds of Hurricane Irma line many yards along Pinellas Point Drive South, St. Petersburg, 9/22/17.
  4. Wisniewska: I protected our students and USFSP campus


    Throughout my tenure in academia, my focus has always been on putting students first.

    The USF St. Petersburg Campus, Thursday, June 19, 2014.
  5. Bucs defensive end Chris Baker (90) is seen during training camp last month at One Buc Place. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]