Beware of Rental Property Scams
Most recently we received a call from a woman interested in one of our rental properties and wanted to view it. She gave us the address, which was the address of a property we had listed for sale at the time, and said she saw it on Craigslist. From time to time, at the request of a client, we may advertise a property for sale or rent on Craigslist, but it really is not our preference. So, when she said that, we were immediately suspicious. The more details she gave, the more we realized she was being scammed. She was ready to send gift cards for payment of a deposit so she could secure the location. Unfortunately, we had to tell her the property was not available and warned her not to send anyone any money. We later searched on Craigslist and we were able to find the fake listing and report it. It showed up again a few days later and we reported it again.
Rental scams happen more often than you think. And, if you’ve been a part of any social media group advertising a place for rent, you may have even witnessed it or been duped yourself. Sometimes it’s the potential tenant being scammed; sometimes it’s the property owner being scammed.
Some scammers hijack real estate listings by changing the contact information and placing the ad on sites such as Craigslist and Social Media sites (i.e. Facebook, Nextdoor, etc.). The information posted is vague and typically incorrect.
Often scammers will make up listings that are not for rent or do not even exist. The properties are attractive to potential renters as they promise low rent. Their goal is to get your money before the scam is discovered.
To help you avoid being scammed, here a few things to look out for:
1. You are requested to wire money. Never wire money! The scammer may state the funds are for the security deposit. Wrong!!! Wiring money is the same as cash and once it is sent, you have no way to get it back.
2. They request a security deposit or first month’s rent before you have viewed the property or signed a lease. It is never a good idea to send money to someone you have not met in person for a rental you have never seen. If you are unable to view the rental, ask someone you trust to go and check it out. Do research on the owner and the listing. If you find the same listing under a different name, it is most likely a scam.
3. They request payment in the form of a gift card. Never do this! They may use the excuse being out of the country. If you cannot meet in person, see the unit, or sign a lease before you pay, please keep looking.
4. No background or credit check required. Any reputable property management company or real estate company will always require a background and/or credit check.
If a property is listed with a real estate company, you are encouraged to always contact the manager of the unit just as the woman did in our story above. Our company has received several calls over the years from people who were inquiring about a rental that did not exist or was inaccurately solicited. Thankfully, we’ve been able to keep them from being taken advantage of. Hopefully, these tips will keep you from being scammed.
By Karen Stout and Arlie Scott