Avoid getting scammed house-hunting on Craigslist

1 tip: Go to home or apartment to check it out in person

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Moving is stressful enough without having to worry about getting scammed in the process. It’s happening in Jacksonville and the best way to not become a victim is to be smart.

One way people using Craigslist to find a new place can figure out if they're being scammed or not is actually going by the home or apartment to check it out in person. Looking for the rental signs and comparing the phone numbers are good, too, but making sure there's an actual place to rent is key.

"There are a lot of rental scams on Craigslist because it's easily available, it’s cheap and it’s free," said Tom Stephens, of the Better Business Bureau.

Almost anyone can post to the website, so scammers can easily place an ad, according to Stephens. He said Jacksonville is a hotbed for rental scams, which is why Heather Knight said she stays away from the site.

"I would not. I would be fearful it was a scam or that it would just be a shady place that I wouldn’t want to live in," Knight said.

"Well, we have a big population. There are a lot of rental properties here," Stephens said.

A lot more people looking to rent than what’s available. Which means people need to be careful when searching the popular site.

"Yeah, I know people that have had success. But I know people who have also had scams or the place wasn't really for rent or it was in poor condition and they've been stuck with a bad lease from Craigslist rentals," Knight said.

To not get stuck with a bad lease, if you get that far, Stephens said what to watch out for.

"The one that's most prevalent is what we call a cloned ad. So that means they take a screen or picture, if you will, they copy an ad from a legitimate Realtor or legitimate renter and then put a listing on Craigslist with that ad," Stephens said.

Most, if not all communication will be on email -- never on the phone or in person. That’s not completely unheard of, but there are other red flags that come up.

"That's the first tipoff: Out of town. Second tipoff would be if they want money sent to them by wire transfer or by some type of prepaid debit card or credit card," Stephens said.

Another scheme, according to the BBB, is getting people to pay for a credit check for a place that doesn't even exist. The scam there is that the poster gets a referral fee for having people pay for a bogus check.

Another sign that people might be getting scammed is if the deal is too good to be true, Stephens said it probably is.