Several local residents were victimized last week by yet another wrinkle in Internet scams — the fraudulent rental of houses via Craigslist.com.
And in one case, the female victim actually moved into the house.
The woman told deputies she had answered a Craigslist ad for the rental on Willow Valley Road and received a rental agreement through the mail, said Nevada County Sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Powell.
In return, she mailed a woman who identified herself as “Diane Baldwin” a certified check for $700.
The scam came to light when a neighbor called law enforcement, knowing that no one should be in the residence and that it had been rented to an elderly couple, Powell said.
A deputy contacted the woman who was living in the residence and she produced a rental agreement.
According to Powell, the property manager for the property said he has seen Baldwin’s name frequently on Craigslist.
The suspect does not appear to be local, Powell said.
It was not clear how the woman gained access to the residence or how she obtained a key, Powell added.
In another scam uncovered last week, a house that was in escrow was fraudulently listed as being for rent on the Craigslist.com website.
The residence had been listed for sale by Realtor J.D. Miller and is occupied by the sellers, he said.
“What happens is this — when we list properties on the Internet, they grab the photos and post a rental ad,” Miller said.
“What they’re hoping for is that people will rent sight unseen, for a rent that is below-market. They’ll say they are out of the country and need someone to rent the house … They’ll collect a first and last (months’ rent) and disappear.”
In this particular case, they posted the address of the house and prospective renters had been driving by.
“Two people even came to the front door,” Miller said.
There’s not much property owners can do about it, Miller said.
But Powell emphasized that would-be renters could protect themselves by insisting on meeting their landlord in person, and not sending money without researching the property.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.