Cedar Rapids family warns people to watch out for Craigslist scam

Published: Nov. 2, 2018 at 5:54 PM CDT
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People in Cedar Rapids are getting ripped off because of a fake housing ad online. It's happening through Craigslist with one home in particular.

They claimed to be the homeowner, and said they're out of town. It's actually being sold by Skogman Realty. The company said this kind of ruse is common and people need to do their homework when searching online.

"If you have a vacant house in particular, get ahold of whoever's name is on that for rent or not," said Skogman Realtor Pat Murphy. "You can also go to the assessor's site to get information about that and talk to the seller directly and find out if that actually is a rental house or not."

Murphy said three people have already fallen victim to the scam. Alicia Davidson was almost the fourth until her mom stepped in.

"I thought everything was legit," said Davidson.

Davidson said she's been emailing back and forth with the person behind this ad for about three weeks now. She said the person asked her to wire the money and they would send the key.

Her mom said she knew from the beginning that it was too good to be true.

"My stomach started doing flips. I thought something was really wrong," said Janet Hurst.

Hurst said she called Skogman Realtor Pat Murphy who immediately told her not to do it. He said it's already happened three times with the same house.

"Someone will call a number or an email address and tell them to go to Walmart and specifically get a money order from there for the rent and the deposit and tell them they'll send the keys afterward," said Murphy.

Davidson said she was in a rush to find her family a home so she didn't think of the danger.

"Me with four kids and one on the way, I didn't think anything of it," said Davidson. "I was just trying to get a home."

Hurst said the website needs to find a better way to make sure this doesn't keep happening.

"How many more on Craigslist is this going on? For these people who did this to my daughter, they're heartless," said Hurst.

Davidson said she hopes other people take her experience as a warning.

"Make sure you check the background.," said Davidson. "Check everything because you never know who's trying to scam you or take your money. "

The family as a whole is now left house-hunting from square one.

Cedar Rapids police said they haven't received any reports of people falling victim to the scam but urge any potential victims to come forward. TV-9 also sent a message to Craigslist but they haven't responded.