People can be crafty and take advantage of unsuspecting renters. It’s important to recognize that a rental property is being rented by the proper owner and not somebody trying to make a quick buck through nefarious means.
Let’s look at an all too common rental scam, so you recognize the red flags if you find yourself in a similar situation.
One of the ways to avoid this frustrating circumstance is to look at the anatomy of the rental ad. Let’s break down key points, so you can easily save yourself from falling victim to this online scam.
First, the scammers search the rental listings on popular sites such as Zillow, Apartments.com, or Realtor.com. Once they locate the target property, they copy the pictures from the site to use as their own. The scammers can get really creative, and might even do research on the current owners. What they’ll do is create a phony email account with a name that sounds like who the owner might be, so it sounds more legitimate. Remember, they are masters of this crime, and will go above and beyond to get your money.
Watch out for Red Flags
Now, here is where a red flag should go up. If you are researching the area, and it seems like the rent is too good to be true, they’ll often times use a lucrative teaser rate to draw you in. Let’s say the average rental home goes for $1,700 a month in the neighborhood you’re looking at, but the ad you came across is listing the home for almost five hundred dollars less, such as $1,200 a month, it should raise a red flag. There’s usually a “reason” they can offer it lower and tell you some made up story.
Now, the potential tenant is excited to get a great deal and asks to see the home. The problem is, the “owner” is away for business or can’t get over there for some reason, but not to worry. There’s a lockbox with the key, and they can go look at it without them. This way they can have first dibs to check it out, even though the owner can’t be there with them.
Of course, the potential tenant is excited at the opportunity to go see this bargain priced home! The renter goes to see the home, decides it’s perfect for the price, and wants to lock in the deal. But because the “owner” is away, he’ll let them either send money via a cash type of app, or a wire transfer.
The person or family moves in, thinking they’ve secured the home, and it comes as a great surprise when the real owner finds somebody has moved into their home.
Be sure to watch for these red flags, like the “owner” being away and unable to do a walkthrough with you, asking you to wire or send money to them, or offering the home at a lower price than the rest of the homes in the area. With these tips in mind, you’ll be one step ahead of the scammer.
The smartest way to deal with this issue is to go through a real estate agent or property management company. Either way, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open. If something doesn’t feel right, there’s usually a reason.