Just this past month, our company became a victim to two rental scams. Thankfully, one was a quick fix (as quick as hitting the “report this listing” button on Craigslist). The other scam, however, was not as quick of a fix. It took our company almost 48 hours to resolve this issue. I know you may be reading this and thinking, “less than two days?” That’s nothing! But in property management, so much can happen in just 48 hours. After looking back on this week’s events, we are here to tell you about a few rental scams you should also be on the lookout for this rental season!
The Craigslist Scam
Have you seen a property on Craigslist recently that just looks too good to be true? Well, there’s a very good chance it just may be. Thankfully, for our company, we were notified by a prospective tenant that someone advertised one of our rental properties at HALF the price. We later found out why it was so easy to spot! Our scammer was not smart enough to remove our watermarked company logo from the photos in his/her Craigslist posting. So, I’d first like to start off by saying, beware of third parties posting rental properties at a lower price. Try to Google the address, and you will most likely be prompted to a trustworthy website with the same listing. Only this time, it will have legitimate information.
The Cash Only Scam
Have you ever wired money to a friend or family member using Western Union or Money Gram? If so, then you know there is no way of tracking this transfer. It’s like it never happened or it’s like using cash, but without a traceable receipt.
Beware of anyone calling themselves “landlords or owners”, stating money wiring is required. Recognized brokers or landlords usually request certified funds, such as a money order, or even accept electronic funds through their preferred software.
- Did the “landlord” of this property posting notify you they are unable to give you a tour of the property because they were “out of town” or “do not live in state”?
- Although you did not yet see the property, did the “landlord” of this posting offer you a deal you couldn’t pass up? Did this deal require immediate payment?
- Did you feel pressure or sense of urgency coming from the “landlord” of this property listing?
If any of the above circumstances apply to you, there is a very likely chance you were involved in a rental scam, otherwise known as fraud. If so, please contact your local authorities immediately. It is also suggested to file a complaint through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center as well as The Federal Trade Commission. Furthermore, please don’t forget to click that “report this listing” button to help others from being victimized!
To avoid becoming a victim of a rental scam or fraud, follow these five rules.
1. If you are looking at properties on Craigslist, always cross reference the property address in the posting with more reliable rental sources such as Realtor, Zillow, or Trulia.
2. Research all found information including names, e-mail addresses, or phone numbers, through Google or another preferred search engine. You can verify the property owner’s name through your county’s property appraiser website.
3. Research market rates in your area. If the property you are interested in is well below market value, this could be a sign of a rental scam.
4. Do not provide any personal information or fill out an application until you or someone you trust has met with the landlord or property manager and viewed the property. On the opposite hand, be aware of “landlords” who are not at all concerned with your income, rental history, credit history, or criminal background.
5. Do not pay any funds without an executed lease, and never, in any case, wire money.