My family is looking for a new home to rent. Our searches have taken us to the usual places so far: classifieds, real estate companies, and Craigslist. While on Craigslist we found a great home listed in Twin Falls that met our needs, was available, and was well within our budget. It seemed almost too good to be true!

It turns out it was and my family was nearly scammed. Beware of rental scams in the Magic Valley.

Remember the old Nigerian email scam that asked you to send money to a person in a foreign country so they could access their funds, transfer them to the United States, and give you a cut? This is very similar. The email I received claims that the owner of the house was transferred overseas. If I sent them rent and a deposit via DHL or Fed EX they would gladly send me all the appropriate paperwork and the keys to the home, sight unseen.

Apparently these type of scams are so prevalent that Craigslist created a Scam Warning. Here are the top three Craigslist's tip for avoiding a rental scam:

  • DEAL WITH PEOPLE YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON - follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.
  • NEVER WIRE FUNDS VIA WESTERN UNION, MONEYGRAM or any other wire service - anyone who asks you to do so is likely a scammer.
  • DO NOT RENT HOUSING WITHOUT SEEING THE INTERIOR SIGHT-UNSEEN - in all likelihood that housing unit is not actually for rent.

Here's a copy of the email the scammer sent me.

Hello Terence,

How are you today i hope all is fine? i want to let you know that my family and i have been discussed on the issue and we have thought over it, we have decided to let you have the house but you have to promise us that you will take good care of the house for us, you can only view the building but you can’t go inside the house right now cause the keys and document to the house are all with me down here, please again make sure you take good care of the house so that i might be glad when coming at the end of April. 2013 to visit you. However if you are ready to rent the house now, then that will not be a problem but we will advice you due to a responsible person like you, to be able to afford the (first month rent $600 and security deposit which is $500)We also want to call you to a notice that we will have to send the keys and documents to the house address you gave us via DHL or FED EX express delivery which ever one you want, and you will be making the payment via western union, We will like to know some more few things from you and which are

Question ?
1) How long do you intend to live in the house?
2) Are you ready to rent now and when do you want to move in?
3) When do you intend making the payment so that i can forward you the detail that you will be making the payment to?


Here are the contents of the document:
1) Entrance and the rooms Keys
2) Paper/Permanent house form (Containing your reference details)
3) The house documentary files...
4) Payment Receipt........
5) Full address and description of the house.

So i want you to get back to me with the following so that i can send to you the information that you need to make the payment to me, and i will be forwarding your information to any of the shipping company you want, so i hope to hear from you soon.

Please note that the deposit made is fully refundable should in case you finally gain entrance into the house after receiving the keys and documents and feel unsatisfied or uncomfortable with the interior, but i am giving you a benefit of doubt that you will love everything about this lovely and beautiful home and is ready for move in. The deposit will be refunded in less than 24 hours after you request for it. You are advices to act fast on this so you don't loose the house to other interested applicants...Give me a call as soon as possible.

Thanks and Remain Blessed.

If it sounds too good to be true, as it did in this case, it probably is. Even if you find a rental online, always deal with the landlord in person, and never, ever send money sight-unseen. These scams are happening right here in Twin Falls.

De smart. Don't get scammed.