Milwaukee woman’s home sale listing gets involved in rental scam: how to protect yourself
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – An area homeowner was quickly caught up in the frenzied housing market when she recently put up her house for sale.
“We listed our house last week Wednesday at 8 p.m.,” Michelle told CBS 58. “By 9 p.m. we already had like nine showings scheduled for Thursday.”
Michelle agreed to speak with CBS 58 on the condition of anonymity and use of a different name for privacy concerns.
It was during a busy start to the home-selling process that a friend pointed something out to Michelle that at first didn’t raise any alarms.
“A friend of mine was like, ‘Oh, I see [the house] on Craigslist,’ and I didn’t think anything of it,” Michelle said.
Days later, the issue went from odd to troubling.
“Then Sunday evening we were home and somebody came to our door and said, ‘Oh, I have this application that this house is for rent.’”
Michelle pointed out to the person the home was for sale, not for rent. The person said he learned about the listing on Craigslist. That is when Michelle investigated the matter and found someone had copied the listing of her home and posted it on Craigslist with her fiancé’s name and an unknown phone number.
“They took the realtor listing and all the verbiage and just posted as if it’s for rent,” Michelle told CBS 58.
Michelle messaged the number on the listing to get more information and possibly learn how the scammer got ahold of her fiancé’s name.
“They give you an application, they don’t set up the showing,” Michelle explained. “Because I messaged and asked to set up a showing, but he had said, I will forward you the application.”
While Michelle never expected for her to be connected to such an issue, the Better Business Bureau says this scam is all too common.
“We hear of these frequently,” Lisa Schiller, the director of investigations for BBB Wisconsin, said in an interview.
A 2019 survey by the BBB and Apartment List found 43-percent of online shoppers encountered a bogus rental listing. 15-percent of people fell victim to those listings, with the average person losing out on $400 and a third losing more than $1,000.
“The goal for [the scammers] is to have the consumer reach out to them and then perhaps provide money for a security deposit, to also take more information so they can steal identities as well.”
The BBB warns consumers to look for red flags like grammatical or spelling errors on listings, listers who do not want to meet in person or talk over the phone and handle communication only through text or email, as well as prices that seem low.
“Something that sounds too good to be true, take a step back, do a little research first, don’t act too quickly,” Schiller said.
The BBB says if you come across a scam like this, you should do the following:
- Report it to the site you found it on
- Report it to your local police department
- Report it to the FBI’s IC3 unit which you can do here: https://www.ic3.gov/
- Report it to the BBB’s Scam Tracker: https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker
Schiller said cases of this type of scam increase during the summer months and when housing markets spike, meaning right now is when the BBB expects more of these cases to be reported.
The Craigslist ads of Michelle’s home were ultimately taken down after she flagged one, and she suspects that tipped off the scammer to move on. However, she hopes sharing her story helps others.
“At the end of the day, I think it’s very important for people to not be taken advantage of and I think this is me doing my part,” Michelle said.