Michigan man offers a cautionary tale about renting tampa bay properties on craigslist gas density calculator

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"I tried Craigslist and I pulled up this house, four bedrooms, two bath, right on the water with a screened-in pool, all-kid protected,” Montgomery said. "It was just perfect for us — that way the kids could bring the boat over and dock it and we could have our grandson with us the whole time.”

The price was good, too, just $200 a night. But when Montgomery asked his kids to drive by the address and take a look, they couldn’t find any waterfront house. That was the first clue to Montgomery that he had been the target of yet another Craigslist scam.

With its free ads, Craigslist has been a boon to millions of people buying and selling furniture, cars, clothing, tools, toys, computers and even real estate. But that also makes it a fertile hunting ground for scammers preying on the trusting nature of others. Phony rentals are a such a popular scam that the St. Petersburg Police Department receives an average of one complaint a week.

"A lot of (victims) might deposit money into a bank account but often they realize what’s happened somewhere between losing the money and actually getting to the house,” said Samantha Meservey of the department’s community awareness division. If the account is with a U.S. bank, the department notifies authorities in the local jurisdiction; more commonly, the money goes into an overseas account and the scammer is impossible to find.

St. Petersburg police have active investigations into two rental scams, both on Craigslist and both reported to the department in a single week in October. In one case, a man moved in after paying the first month’s rent and deposit. A few weeks later, the owner came by to check on the house, which was supposed to be vacant, and discovered the tenant.

Fortunately for Montgomery, his experience with Craigslist never got that far. But he’s sharing it as a cautionary tale at a time when many out-of-staters are looking for bay area rentals, including fans coming in for the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game, set for Jan. 9 in Tampa.

With the correct address — just one digit different but 36 streets away from the address in the ad — Hope and Jason found the house and pronounced it "ideal” even though people clearly were living there and in the midst of some construction.

Suspicious, Montgomery started to do some sleuthing. Through Zillow, he discovered that the house had recently been sold. He called the real estate agent, who told him the new owners were "putting their touches on it but have the complete intention of living there and not renting to anybody.”

As of this week, the same ad was still on Craigslist. The address is the same incorrect one that "Martin” originally gave Montgomery — the place at that address is a nonwaterfront duplex — but the ad has 20 color photos of the waterfront house taken from Zillow or the Multiple Listing Service. A reporter who tried emailing and calling about the ad received no response.

A co-worker, she recalled, tried selling a large amount of furniture on Craigslist and was almost scammed by an out-of state buyer who wanted to pay by cashier’s check — always a no-no because such checks can easily be forged. The buyer also wanted her to "buy a bunch of prepaid gas cards” for the mover in what sounded like another ploy to separate her from her money.