With the demand of rental properties going up, so is the amount of scammers. Various forms of rental scams are popping up all over the place. There are people posing as property owners who in reality have only seen the same pictures you viewed in their ad. These people somehow convince people to wire money to them as a deposit for the home. After the money is sent, they either disappear or pretend to keep pushing the move in date back due to emergencies. By the time the innocent renters realize what is happening, it is too late and they are out a substantial amount of money. In some cases you do actually deal with the real owner. The problem there is they are about to go into foreclosure and you end up never moving in or being kicked out by the bank soon after. There are also scammers who pose as renters, which sounds difficult considering there shouldn’t be any reason for property owners to be paying potential tenants right? These scammers sign a legitimate lease, with their real or fake identity, but have no intention of ever paying. They write fraudulent checks or don’t pay at all until they are evicted and then move on to the next victim. Landlords are out potential income for sometimes months before they are able to get the frauds out of the property.
There are ways to avoid being a victim to rental scams. If you are a landlord, make sure you always get two forms of ID. Place a deadline for getting credit and background checks before leaving an apartment reserved for someone. Tell them this has to be done immediately before reserving or within 24 hours and that you do not accept credit reports from outside sources. Always check their references, and then check into their references to make sure they are who they say they are. If you are the potential renter, there are many more signs to look out for. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. There are websites designed to find out what the prices should be. Do your research. If the landlord only communicates through email and only accepts cash or money order, they are likely a scam. Never wire money to somebody you have never met. Many scammers claim to be out of the country on business or give you a sad story about a dying relative. Never fall for this story, because experienced landlords keep conversations business related. If you do get the chance to go see the place, pay close attention to details such as if they are entering through the back door, they “forgot” the key, they didn’t drive up to the house, etc. Ask to see their ID. Legitimate landlords will have no issue showing this, but frauds will instantly get nervous, cancel the showing, or just refuse to show the ID. Always cover your bases when it comes to rental properties. Ask neighbors about the property and the owners, research the landlord online, take pictures of them or their IDs for your own records, whatever it is you need to do to make sure this is not a scam. Protect yourself and your money.