An old scam has raised it's ugly head again in the ever popular La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and Ocean Beach rental markets.

The target: unwary renters.

The bait: vacant property advertised on craigslist, usually at below market rates that generate a lot of interest.


The scam: advertise a property for rent on craigslist at below market rent. Set up staggered appointments to show the property to prospective renters. Collect a deposit check to "take the property off the market" and give the renter a move-in date. Cash the check. Wash, rinse and repeat.

The problem: the property is not for rent. It is a vacant property listed for sale where the listing agent has placed a combination lockbox on the property and disclosed the combination in the MLS. As a result, the scammer has a vacant property to advertise, easy access to the property, and decent odds that the scam can be worked without the owner or listing agent aware of what is happening until it's to late.

The scammed renters often don't know that they have been taken until they show up on the move-in date promised and can't get in, at which point they call the number on the for sale sign that wasn't on the property when they met the scammer, and then learn the truth.

The solution: This is a tough one for renters. Sometimes there are rental deals in this market that seem too good to be true but are legitimate because the owner needs the property rented ASAP. However, if there is a combo lockbox on the property without a sign from a real estate brokerage or property management company, then be aware.

If you are asked to provide either a deposit or a rental application with personal information, ALWAYS ask for ID first. A legitimate landlord, property manager or real estate agent will not object, and will most likely appreciate your concern. We recommend for San Diego beach rentals.

Property owners and real estate agents should avoid using combo lockboxes, but if absolutely necessary, DO NOT disclose the combination in the MLS.

Feel free to search all San Diego homes for sale throughout the county.