An Oak Lawn woman is $1,500 poorer after falling hook, line and sinker for a fake Craigslist ad that touted a cheap home for rent in Tinley.
"I'm devastated," said Jamie O'Leary, 32. "This has totally set me back. But I'm not going to cry about it or lose any more sleep. Stupid me. That's all I can say. Stupid me."
O'Leary responded May 29 to to the ad, which referenced an $800-per month three-bedroom, two-bathroom house at 8401 W. 167th St., according to a police report. She didn't think the rent was unheard of since her current rental home of the same size in Oak Lawn costs just $100 more each month.
"(She) received an e-mail back stating that the subject had moved out of the house with his family and needed to rent it because he was now in Nigeria working as a pastor with the U.S. Aid Mission," the report said.
On May 31, O'Leary went to the home and met a man—she said he was black and in his 30s—who showed her around. He told her his name was "Ronald Daly," coinciding with the e-mail address she'd been corresponding with of "firstname.lastname@example.org." He was in town to "get final details at the home sorted out," O'Leary said.
"It was the same guy as the Realtor's picture in the ad, so I didn't really think anything of it," she said.
She decided to rent the home and the man said he'd get her a contract and the keys after she paid a $1,500 fee—$800 for first month's rent and $700 for a security deposit. He asked her to wire the money to Nigeria because that's where he was going to be, police said.
O'Leary did so between June 2 and June 15, she said. On June 18, she got a fake FedEx e-mail saying the house keys and other documents had been shipped. She never received a package and she has been unable to contact the man since June 15, she said. She called the cops this week to report that she'd been bamboozled.
The rental was listed under Orland Hills Coldwell Banker real estate agent, Ron Daly, according to the police report. Although Daly is, indeed, employed at the office, his attributes don't match up with the man O'Leary described, police said.
The scam artist used the agent's information, as well as that of a for-sale home, to set up the hoax, said Jeff Binkowski, office manager at the Coldwell Banker/Honig agency in Orland Hills. He said his office has been targeted in three similar scams.
"Every time, it's one of two things," he said. "Someone is either taking a property that's listed as for sale and putting an ad on CraigsList that says it's for rent at a greatly reduced rate … Or, there's a property for rent for say, $1,900 and they put an ad up saying it's $1,200."
In O'Leary's case, the home was for sale.
"As far as what we've been told, a scam artist—usually a couple—sets up an appointment with a real estate agent," Binkowski said. "While they're there, they leave a window or a door open. That way, they can get back into the home and show it as if they're an agent."
The primary challenge for Binkowski is that in terms of Craigslist scams, his hands are somewhat tied.
"We try to chase these things down as best we can," he said. "But we can never get a hold of anyone at Craigslist to remove these ads. There are miles and miles of red tape."
As for O'Leary, she's avoiding the site in the future.
"I don't know exactly what I'm going to do," she said. "Be a lot more cautious, that's for sure."
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