As the old saying goes – if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. The Winchester Police Department has been made aware of a housing scam in the area, and is urging residents to stay informed in order to avoid falling victim to these frauds.
On January 28, a local woman spoke with officers about a listing that she had found on Craigslist for a home in the 100 block of Locust Avenue. The home was advertised on the site as “For Rent” at a very low monthly cost. The woman responded to the ad and sent money through a wiring service, only to have the money returned. The wiring service had previously flagged the receiver, based in Houston, TX, as a fraud. Further investigation led the woman to find that the house was actually listed for sale by the local owner through a real estate agent. The scammer had assumed the name of the real owner but provided a phone number with a Dallas, TX area code and a non-personally identifying email address to the victim for correspondence, only communicating with her by text or email and never speaking with her.
Winchester Police would like to remind the community to always use caution when conducting business online, especially on sites like Craigslist. Follow the site’s own tips on how to avoid scams (listed below), and use their resources at this link to report anything suspicious.
Craigslist’s tips on avoiding scams:
- Do not extend payment to anyone you have not met in person.
- Beware of offers involving shipping – deal with locals you can meet in person.
- Never wire funds (e.g. Western Union) – anyone who asks you to is a scammer.
- Don’t accept cashier/certified checks or money orders – banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
- Transactions are between users only – no third party provides a “guarantee.”
- Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, PayPal account, etc.).
- Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen – that amazing “deal” may not exist.
- Refuse background/credit checks until you have met landlord/employer in person.