Fraudulent Craigslist ad scams summer renters

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A Craigslist scammer is pulling pictures and information from legitimate Craigslist rental listings on Martha’s Vineyard and exploiting summer visitors looking for a deal.

Going by the alias of Melvin, and using the email moubertg@gmail.com, the fraudulent advertiser takes pictures of past and current rental listings on Craigslist and reposts them for questionably low prices.

Michaela O’Brien and her husband were looking to visit their son in early August while he is working for Morning Glory Farm. O’Brien said she had seen some listings that looked legitimate and comfortable, but were out of their price range. 

In search of a deal, they found an ad for a two-bedroom, two-bath vacation cottage in Oak Bluffs, just a short ride from downtown. 

“It looked small and modest, so we thought maybe it was within the realm of possibility,” O’Brien said.

Although the price was low, at $130 per night, O’Brien said she was excited to see her son and almost jumped on the offer.

But then her husband and she began to do some digging on the internet, and while searching the email address of the advertiser in Google, they found a website declaring it the address of a known scammer. 

The website describes the fake account as offering “great investment offers” to people on multiple different real estate and rental-sharing platforms. 

After they found out the offer was a scam, they found the actual page for the property — the house had been sold years prior to the fake listing being posted.

“It was just kind of a slap of reality. We were really looking forward to visiting our son during the summer,” O’Brien said. “Luckily we were able to find a place to stay with an old employer of my husband.”

O’Brien said seeing ads like this illustrates how much of the onus is on buyers and renters to do their fact-checking and confirm that offers being made are authentic. “It really makes the point of going through a rental agency or Realtor in order to avoid these types of things,” O’Brien said.