Landlord warns of bogus Craigslist rental ads

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KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. -- Tom Waggoner responded to a Craigslist advertisement, along with the FOX 17 Problem Solvers.

We called a man who said he wanted to rent out a home on West Michigan Avenue in Kalamazoo. The problem: Wagoner and his wife own the property. They rent it out to college students.

"This time of year, we rent it and put it on [Zillow.com]," Waggoner said.

He said someone copied his rental ad from Zillow.com, created a phony ad on Craigslist, and listed the rent for nearly half the price.

"It did say it was for $600 dollars and that it was pet-friendly," Waggoner recalled.

A prospective tenant told Waggoner about the bogus ad. In some cases, he said people are even filling out phony applications.

"This application form ... they're asking for your social security number," he said.

Waggoner explained, "We've had multiple calls like that now, and our tenants are calling us saying that people are pulling up in the driveway and looking in their windows."

Tenant Sally Siragusa said she's lived at the home for two years. In the past two weeks, she said eight people have stopped in response to the phony ad.

"It's been really scary actually, just having random people show up and asking to rent your house when you're just trying to do homework," she said.

She recalls some people looked through her windows to check things out.

"That's the first time I've heard of that one," Al Rowe, a realtor with Remax Advantage said.

Rowe has been with Remax Advantage in Kalamazoo for 30 years. He said in the past four years, Craigslist has become a hotbed for imposters trying to pass rental ads off as their own. It's something real estate agents are prime targets of themselves.

Rowe suggests prospective tenants contact the county or go online to look up the property's legitimate owner.
If you do drive by a home, he said talk to neighbors.

"If it's too good to be true, it's probably too good to be true," Rowe noted.

Waggoner said he's called police about the issue, but he said local law enforcement didn't seem like it could do anything. He's since put a sign on his front door to warn passersby of the phony ad.

"Us as landlords... if we're going to show the house, we'll always meet you there," he said.

Waggoner has since pulled the ad from Zillow and the fake ad on Craigslist. The person posting the fake ad has a Google subscribed number with a "757" area code. That originates from Virginia.

Rowe said the FBI is likely the agency to report this type of incident to, but he believes they are probably inundated with calls like this.

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