Killing Rent Proactive spam ads on Craigslist

According to Craigslist, “Free classified ads sufficiently flagged are subject to automated removal.”

Rent Proactive, a Chicago-based apartment finder, has long been one of Craigslist’s worst ad spammers, the subject of highly-suspicious reviews at Yelp, a charter member of our rental service do-not-call list, and a disloyal vendor to landlords whose apartments they’ve rented.

I set out to test whether flagging Rent Proactive’s spam ads on Craigslist would make a difference.

At 10 a.m. yesterday, Saturday morning, a Craigslist apartments search for “Rent Proactive” returned 2,500 results. I then began searching individual ads by their “ID#,” identifying those which were clearly duplicative in violation of Craigslist’s Terms of use (TOU), and flagging them as “spam/overpost.” I don’t know for certain whether it was as a result of my efforts, but within the hour Rent Proactive’s ad count was reduced to 2,216 by the removal of newly-added ads.

Rent Proactive’s spam Craigslist campaign is unceasing, and by day’s end on Saturday the search results count for “Rent Proactive” was back up to 2,500.

I supplemented my flagging efforts with a note to Craigslist, posted by clicking the “help, faq, abuse, legal” on the Chicago home page and then clicking “contact us” and checking the “report spam or scam” radio button. I provided Craigslist specific instructions as to how to search Rent Proactive ads to identify them – by name and phone number – and verify that they were in violation of Craigslist’s TOU.

At 9 a.m. today, Sunday morning, my “Rent Proactive” search returned 2,136 results. Within half an hour, after flagging a number of posts, the count stood at 2,015. Only one of the more than 100 Rent Proactive ads placed Sunday morning remained visible.

By 9:45 a.m. Rent Proactive had added 15 ads, raising the search results count to 2,030, and I flagged several of those. At 9:57 the count was down to 2,014 – and not a single ad placed by Rent Proactive on Sunday, December 30 was visible!

There were no Rent Proactive 12/30 ads visible at 10:45, but 11 new ones were added by 10:53. A minute later, most had been removed.

Update: By day’s end Rent Proactive had successfully posted 234 new ads, but none after 7:04 p.m. Its ad count stood at 2,236. Sporadic flagging efforts produced no results as the day progressed.

Update: At 8:25 a.m. Monday Rent Proactive’s ad count is below 1,900 and the most recent ad is still from 7:04 yesterday. Craigslist appears to be blocking Rent Proactive.

At 8:32 new Rent Proactive spam ads began appearing on Craigslist. Draining the swamp will take some time.

Craigslist spamming techniques
How do Rent Proactive and other spammers bypass Craigslist’s filters and get their ads to go live? You can read some of the techniques they use in this article.

Help us clean up Craigslist rental service ads
Recent reports that Craigslist has stepped up its efforts to control spam ads are apparently accurate.

There’s a lot at stake for the spammers, however. Chicago’s rental services are determined to make your Craigslist apartment search such a miserable, time-wasting experience that you’ll give up and contact one of them, or be fooled into doing so.

As I think I’ve just demonstrated, individual efforts can make a difference in improving renters’ experience on Craigslist. You can help by flagging spam ads on Craigslist, increasing the odds that Craigslist’s automated systems will flag them for removal and eventually block the spammers entirely.

Begin by reading and understanding section 4 (a) of Craigslist’s Terms of use to understand what’s allowed and disallowed in ad posting. As you scan Craigslist ads, click the “spam/overpost” link at the upper-right of any ad that violates Craigslist’s TOU.

Rent Proactive is one of Craigslist’s most relentless Chicago rental service spammers, but also one of its least sophisticated, as seen in the stale “Host Thanksgiving dinner” ad pictured above and the ease in which its ads can be targeted by keyword searches. Other Chicago rental services are more adept at evading Craigslist’s automated systems, and we’ll focus on identifying and killing off their ads in later posts.

Show your support for our efforts by liking our Craigslist Apartment Cleanup page at Facebook.

NOTE: At the margins YoChicago competes with rental services for landlord marketing dollars, so we have a financial stake in keeping the competition honest. Make whatever you will of that.

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