Craigslist housing scam cheats local man out of $5,500
In many cities, renting a two-bedroom house for $2,750 a month is somewhat common — maybe even expensive. But in Steamboat Springs, one resident found the deal to be so good, it was worth taking a gamble.
“Here in Steamboat, when something pops up, you kinda have to jump on it,” said Noah Booth, who saw the ad on Craigslist an hour after it was posted.
The headline of the ad read, “Private Cabin in beautiful Downtown Steamboat! Best Location in Old Town!”
The pictures on the ad looked professional, showcasing hardwood floors, granite countertops and a beautiful view of Soda Creek. It even said the home was pet friendly, which Booth needed because he has a dog.
Booth has been living in Hayden and he often commuted to Steamboat for work. His girlfriend was offered a teaching job at the Steamboat Springs High School, which would have been right down the street from their new home, if the Craigslist ad wasn’t fake.
The headline and photos were all ripped off from a post on the website VRBO.com, a short-term rental site, but the scammer took the liberty to tack on the name of a fictional realty company, “Noble Private Property.”
The actual owner of the property, Robbie Shine, has noticed his VRBO listing was being duplicated and posted on Craigslist for some time now.
He said the post would get flagged for removal and then taken down, only to pop back up 10 days later, as that was the minimum amount of time before it could be reposted.
Booth responded to the ad on April 13. Booth recalled he and the scammer communicated regularly via text messages, during which Booth said the scammer was very prompt about messaging back and didn’t write with a ton of egregious spelling and grammatical errors, as is often the case with online scams.
The scammer requested a payment for the first and last month’s rent — or $5,500 — through either a money order or Zelle, a payment service similar to Venmo that has been used in a lot of scams nationwide.
After Booth sent a money order, he and the scammer continued to communicate for some time, which seemed like a good sign at the time. However, the channel went silent on May 8.
The last Booth had heard, the scammer said they were waiting for the current tenants to move out on May 15. Booth went to the property on Wednesday, May 18, and by this time, he knew there was a good chance this was a scam.
“I just wanted to get an answer, basically,” Booth said.
He hoped to see the house empty, but instead it was occupied by nightly renters.
Booth knocked on the door and explained his situation. Shine, who lives nearby, approached Booth and heard his story.
The two of them talked for almost an hour, and Shine felt so bad he offered to start a gofundme page to raise funds for Booth. Shine also offered Booth $1,000, which Booth appreciated but declined.
“He’s a good young guy,” Shine said, understanding why Booth felt he needed to act quickly to secure the rental. “I think the market’s so crazy that people have to react like this.”
Booth and Shine reached out to police, who opened an investigation. The routing number Booth was given was international, so him getting his money back is unlikely. Booth now plans to work for several more months to save up money to put down on another rental.
Sgt. Evan Noble of the Steamboat Springs Police Department warned against sending money to individuals the sender has not yet met. Buyers on Craigslist should pay also attention to the details of each transaction and be aware for signs that it might be a scam.
If someone believes they have come across a scam, they can flag the post at the top of the page and email Craigslist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.