KRWG Alert: Housing Rental Scam

Las Cruces – Deceitful rental advertisements that have been reported in other parts of the country - and use the popular online advertisement site Craiglist - have now scammed at least three local families out of several hundred dollars.

The perpetrator of the scam creates a Craigslist advertisement for a property rental, using actual photos of local homes, and then encourages a prospective renter to electronically transfer the payment. In the past few weeks the Las Cruces Police Department has received information that this scam has been committed locally on three occasions.

One family hoping to move to Las Cruces from southern California was recently conned out of $1,000 after sending their first-month's rent and security deposit through Western Union to an unknown recipient. Perpetrators of such scams often ask to be paid through Western Union because those transactions are difficult, if not impossible, to track.

The prospective renters conducted all their business via e-mail and never spoke directly to the perpetrators or saw the rental property first-hand. The perpetrators claimed to be renting their Las Cruces home while they were on a mission in West Africa.

The Craiglist ads in question were created by someone who electronically copied photos and descriptions of homes from legitimate ads of local real estate agents.

LCPD strongly encourages prospective renters to use caution, and exercise due diligence, prior to entering into any financial transaction. Other tips include:

1. Avoid engaging in a deal, or money transfer, when the only means of communication is conducted over the Internet or via e-mail.
2. Conduct a walk-through of the rental property and meet the landlord, or real estate agent, in person.
3. Review written rental agreements thoroughly prior to signing a contract or exchanging funds.
4. Beware if the property owner claims to be traveling, or is out of the country, and unable to meet in-person.