Potential renter trusts gut feeling, narrowly avoids $2,000 North Canton Craigslist swindle

NORTH CANTON, OH (WOIO) - An Akron woman looking for a new home for her family in North Canton came very close to losing $2,000 in a Craigslist scam.

Michelle Ketler was set on renting the perfect house in North Canton. She has a tight budget as a single mom of three children, and her checklist for rentals is pretty firm.

"We were looking for somewhere closer to their school, a house preferably where they can have a yard. My five-year-old is autistic, he has a companion dog," Ketler said.

She found an ad on Craigslist that sounded just right.

"Two to three bedroom home, gorgeous dining room, lots of sunlight," she said, reading from the ad.

Ketler contacted the property owner, who claimed to be a pastor. After communicating through email, he eventually sent her a rental application. She asked him to call her and insisted on seeing the house in person before she sent over any money.

He replied to her by text: "Well you can give us the deposit and first month's rent and we'll send you the keys."

That's when she thought something was wrong and realized it was a scam. So Ketler did some digging, first checking with the Stark County auditor's office, and then by doing several online searches of the house's address. She found out the house listed as a rental on Craigslist was actually for sale.

Then she worried about the real owner.

"Does this person have children? Are they out playing in the yard? How many people are wandering past this house because of the scam and how many people may be desperate?" Ketler said.

She contacted the realtor of the house, who told her she wasn't the first to call. But she was the first person who had a phone number of the scammer.

Ketler hopes that means no one will fall victim to this convincing, but phony ad.

"You need to do your research, pay attention, don't be desperate. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it," she said.

The realtor of the house listed on Craigslist called police, but they couldn't take a report since no one has reported losing any money. She also reported it to Craigslist and they took the ad down. If you think you were a victim of this crime give North Canton Police a call.

Craigslist has these tips on its website to avoid scams:

  • Deal locally, face-to-face -- follow this one rule and avoid 99 percent of scam attempts.
  • Do not extend 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.

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