A Warning About Craig’s List Big Island Kona Rental Ads

1 Oct

If you are moving to the Big Island, and plan to rent a condominium in either Kailua-Kona (Kona) or Hilo Hawaii, please beware of Craig’s List scams such as the following.  I had a client email me about a rental advertisement on Craig’s List for a condominium in Kailua-Kona.  She had answered the ad and begun a correspondence with a real estate agent whose name and email address were on the ad; but no phone number.  The first red flag was when that “agent” said he couldn’t get videos because the current tenant required 48 hours’ notice to gain entry (a legal requirement in Hawaii).  The second red flag was when a Rental Agreement was emailed to her that was not on a standard Hawaii Association of Realtors form (a requirement if the rental agent is a Realtor).  The third red flag was that the “Rental Agreement” listed a bank account in Georgia to wire the funds to.  That’s when she called me.  I explained to her that all funds collected by licensed real estate agent must be deposited into the Client Trust Account of the brokerage that agent works for.  Generally, a prospective tenant would mail a personal check for the rental deposit made out to that brokerage.  I agreed to investigate the situation for my client.  The first thing I did was check the tax records and found that the name on the title was different from the name of the “landlord” on the rental agreement.  Next, I contacted the Principal Broker for the brokerage in question and asked if her agent had indeed placed an ad on Craig’s List for this condo.  She contacted the agent whose name was used and found out that he knew nothing about it.  What had happened here is that someone had taken photos from a Zillow listing that had sold in June, chosen a name of a local agent at random, and put an ad in the  Craig’s List for-rent section (apts / housing).  Now it’s possible that people not posing as agents can also place fake ads on Craig’s List.  The red flag is that they almost always ask that the deposit funds be wired.  Craig’s List warns to NEVER wire funds to secure a rental.  In any event, if I have the property address, I can still verify who the true owner is and most likely contact that person to be sure the condo they own is actually for rent. 

Here are the warnings that Craig’s Posts:

Deal locally, face-to-face —follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.

  • Do not provide payment to anyone you have not met in person.
  • Beware offers involving shipping – deal with locals you can meet in person.
  • Never wire funds (e.g. Western Union) – anyone who asks you to is a scammer.
  • Don’t accept cashier/certified checks or money orders – banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
  • Transactions are between users only, no third party provides a “guarantee”.
  • Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, PayPal account, etc.).
  • Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen—that amazing “deal” may not exist.
  • Refuse background/credit checks until you have met landlord/employer in person.
  • “craigslist voicemails” – Any message asking you to access or check “craigslist voicemails” or “craigslist voice messages” is fraudulent – no such service exists.