Hawaii Craigslist Rental Ad Scams – Buyer Beware

A listing of mine was recently advertised in one of those Nigerian real-estate rental ad scams on Craigslist that attempts to sucker people out of personal information, and wiring money to a Western Union account with promises of an UNREAL DEAL!

The scam is simple:

  1. The con artist pulls the photos and address of a home that is currently listed on the market off any consumer real estate website, and offers to rent it out to people via Craigslist for a price that is way under market value. (They are now looking up public tax records to use the actual homeowner’s name in the correspondence to potential renters! Often, they’ll even create Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail addresses with those names…)
  2. The “landlord” tells you about a family emergency/missionary work/military service that has called him away on a moment’s notice to a foreign country, and how he needs to find a renter A.S.A.P.
  3. He gets all your financial information and history via the “rental application,” and once you’ve been selected, requests you to wire your deposit and first month’s rent, so he can mail the keys to you.

I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times over, but I’m going to hammer them home again for the readers – “If it sounds too good to be true…it probably is!” Never, ever conduct any real estate transaction with someone you can’t meet or verify the identity of. This goes for consumers as well as real-estate practitioners. If you can’t see the home you are going to rent before signing a contract or making a deposit, something is definitely wrong!

Here’s an excerpt of the scammer’s email if you’re interested in seeing the pitch in action:


I did get your response concerning the AD I posted on Craigslist…The house is still available but presently I’m not around…I did bid for a portion of petroleum land sometime ago in West Africa and, fortunately, I won the bidding, so I have to move quickly down to Africa to have my company set up because I will still have to rebid for it in the next 10 years. I came over here with my wife, we both owned the house when we got married. As soon as we settled down here, I had a thought of selling the house, so I have to look for an agent, after getting one, we got a deal, but later my wife advised against that. She said we may not be able to win the bidding next time, in order to keep our head when we return that, we have to keep the house and it’s going to be available for up to 5 years…I reasoned with her and accepted her advise…So, I contacted the agent back and requested for my keys and documents. Later, we decided to have the house rent out because of maintenance, maintenance, i mean is by taking very good care of the house and i will be responsible for the repairs myself, we would have gave the same agent this job also, but the truth of the matter is that the agent would want to handle it professionally and the occupant may not be able to reason along with me later if I let him or her know that I’m letting it out because of the up keeping of the house…If you notice, you will discovered that the price we are offering is far below standard price, this is enough for you to know that we are not after the rental fee but the maintenance…I know there is no way I can be sure that you are the right person to live in the house because we won’t be able to see physical before sending you the keys and the documents to occupy the space…But I just had a feeling that anyone who knows what it takes to put the kind of structure down should know that up keeping of a building is mandatory, so if you belief you can take good care of the house and handle it like yours then I will be more than happy to let you rent the house. The rent is $1,000 and the deposit payment is $1,100.”

Needless to say, my clients were not thrilled about their $600,000 home being offered for rent at $1,000 per month, and the emails and phone calls they got from friends and family asking what was going on. It’s really surprising how many people browse these ads on a daily basis.

Do you have any real estate horror stories to share?

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10 Responses to “Hawaii Craigslist Rental Ad Scams – Buyer Beware”

  1. Heidi White
    March 2, 2011 at 5:51 am #

    I also had the same thing happen with my listing at Keauhou bay (mls 240888) here in Kona! Same experience. The prospective renter called from my real estate sign in front of the house and was wondering if $800 per month was for real. It obviously was too cheap to believe near the beach like that! Yes that scam is for real. Realtors should watch out because people will be moving into homes without legal right. And since a lovely Kona Realtor left the door wide open with key in the lock yesterday, it could have happened easily.

  2. Katie Minkus, R(BIC)
    March 2, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    @ Heidi – really, they left the door wide open with the key in the LOCK?? Seriously inappropriate. How do those Realtors even stay in business? They clearly have zero clue about the liability involved in selling other peoples’ property. So disappointing! And we wonder why our reputation as Realtors doesn’t seem to get better…

  3. Emaley McCulloch
    May 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Thanks for publishing this. This person tried this on me as well. I saw this and was able to verify it as a scam. It definitely was too good to be true.

    Thanks so much.

  4. tanju
    November 26, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    We have just moved to Kona from mainland, and I am literally disgusted by the fact that almost 90 percent of the ads we replied to were the same scam. My wife and I would get a reply back and it would be the same type of long letter explaining how they owners are on a christian missionary fighting AIDS in nigeria, or moved out of country for a petroleum job…. Is there not some way these crooks can be caught? It really angers me that this type of behavior is not taken seriously. And we wonder why the world is the way it is … Tell me a way to catch these and I will hang them by their balls!!!!

  5. tanju
    November 26, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    Be aware also of individuals texting you if you have any posting on craigslist for jobs wanted. they are relentless and are scamming you by asking if you want to work for them and they with pay you by western union. Don’t do it please….. Some body just needs to clean up these scum bags off the internet. Karma will get them I hope!!!

  6. Steve McKenzie
    September 21, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    Aloha & Beware
    This scam is still prevalent on craigslist in Hawaii. Pain in the okole having to waste time on cretins like this, but you soon find out what is going on when they come up with excuses why you cant view the property.

  7. Stan
    May 2, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    I emailed several ads from craigslist this morning. The majority replied with conditions and terms and very detailed comments …. then said they needed a bank transfer to secure the reservation. I must admit there was part of me that wanted to believe I could rent a 2 bedroom condo on the 9th floor right on Waikiki. Here is the last communication.

    “Yes, this is an Ocean facing unit, its on the 9th floor and the parking is onsite and Valet.Its advisable to make payment via our bank transfer payment options.Due to the peak period of rental, there is alot of congestion on our Paypal account, thus that does not secured the reserved accommodation for our various clients due to payment congestion, and the clearing process, so we had decided that pending the clearance of the later payment,monies should be directed to the accountant’s account, please bear with this payment option, as soon as you made payment , please get back to me with your payment notification/receipt, i will issue your booking confirmation immediately.please get back to me ASAP in regard to this issue.
    henceforth, we only accept payment via our bank transfer option.
    Note: Is only when payment has been made before i can secure your dates.
    please if you are interested, please get back to me ASAP , so that i can send you a booking/agreement form
    NOTE;The apartment is not booked until we have received the deposit.
    I look forward to hearing back from you and reserving your stay at our beautiful apartment.

    Richard Freeman”

  8. Allyn
    January 25, 2016 at 11:36 pm #

    The example email is still being used! I’m young and looking for a place to rent and stumbled across a “too good to be true” ad on craigslist. As a first time renter, I wasn’t sure what to look for and who to trust. I’m glad I talked to someone first before giving any information to this person. I feel like such a fool. I’m glad I found this article, even though it’s been almost 5 years since it’s been posted…

    • Katie Minkus
      January 26, 2016 at 10:30 am #

      Wow! Allyn – thanks for sharing! It’s amazing that they are still using the same scam from 5 years ago!


  1. Can MLS Companies Level the Playing Field? - GeekEstate BlogGeekEstate Blog - March 29, 2011

    [...] course, there are many reasons why a broker might not want to display an address, including this Craigslist rental scam. But how does this help with search engines? Well, if I’m displaying an address on a webpage [...]

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