Avoiding Rental Scams
We’ve talked about rental scams before on the site and they never go away. However, as the rental market has been hot in recent months, we’re seeing more and more rental scams and some of the methods have become a bit more sophisticated. The basic premise stays the same though…owner isn’t in town, isn’t using a REALTOR®, and will send you the keys once you pay the deposit. Do not send money to anyone who promises keys once they receive it.
These rental scams are everywhere – Craigslist, Trulia, Zillow, Homes.com, Hotpads…you name it. While many of the big sites are working to help stem the tide of fake listings and scams, they are still not able to catch many of these scams in time. Knowing what to look for and how to best find a rental home can save you a lot of headaches later down the road.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to protect yourself is to google the property address after you hear of a good rental. Check multiple sites. Are you seeing inconsistencies? Then you might want to be careful before contacting the owner/agent.
Of course, in all of the scams, there is a common element – send the money, get the keys. Typically, the owner says they are out of town and therefore can’t show you the property, but if you fill out their application (often just typed right into an email) and send the security deposit, they’ll send you the keys. Of course, you’ll never see the keys, since the scammer doesn’t have them. In addition, the scammer now has a lot of personal information about you and can use that to steal your identity.
Your best bet to combat the rental scams? Know what to look for, don’t send money for keys, and work with a local real estate agent. We also suggest looking for homes on an MLS-based search site (anyone can upload properties to places like Zillow and Trulia, but our feeds come direct from the MLS) – we even have a specific rental search on our site for this very purpose.
image courtesy of heyyu