Rental Scams – Suspects are Scamming Both the Landlords and Tenants
Landlords and tenants have much cause these days to be wary of scams. Rental scams are on the rise again and the criminals are making their move to take advantage of the landlord and tenants.
Avoiding rental scams can be easily understood. They begin with understanding that nothing is free and if it looks too good to be true, it is. Once the landlord or tenant know what to look for, your chances of identifying a scam before you become victim of one, increase exponentially.
Some scammers hijack a real rental or real estate listing by changing the email address or other contact information, and placing the modified ad on another site. The altered ad may even use the name of the person who posted the original ad. In other cases, scammers have hijacked the email accounts of property owners on reputable vacation rental websites. They will also hijack pictures of a rental properties and create a whole new listing for that property with other contact information.
Other rip-off artists make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist, and try to lure you in with the promise of low rent, or great amenities. Their goal is to get your money before you find out. Do your homework. Google the property and see what else comes up. Chances are that if it’s a scam, you will see other information about that property to include who the actual rental agency is.
Signs of a Scam
They tell you to wire money. This is the surest sign of a scam. There is never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, first month’s rent, or vacation rental fee. That is true even if they send you a contract first. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back. This is also true for Green Dot, Western Union or other types of money cards. Asking for any of those items in reference to renting a property should be cause for alarm. Anything involving sending money before you have seen the property is a giant red flag as well.
They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease. It is never a good idea to send money to someone you have never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you cannot visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is for rent, and that it is what was advertised. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the owner and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
They say they’re out of the country or out of state. But they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or an “agent” working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys. Do not send money to them overseas. If you can’t meet in person, see the apartment, or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking. What if the rental itself is overseas? Paying with a credit card or through a reputable vacation rental website with its own payment system are your safest bets.
How to Report Scams
If you find yourself the target of a rental scam, report it to your local law enforcement agency and the Federal Trade Commission. You can also email the City of Weatherford Financial Crimes Detective at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.