It looks like San Antonio is being targeted for rental scams once again. When I last wrote on the topic, it was rental scams on craigslist…this time, they’ve hit Trulia.
Rentals scams come in different forms, but they usually have the same premise – send the money, get the keys. Recently, a listing in town has been the target of one of these scams. Over the course of two days, we received several phone calls about this property and each caller wanted to know more about it as a rental. This confused us, since the property is not listed for rent, but is for sale at $519,000. As I started to put the pieces together in my head…I smelled a rental scam.
I dug a little deeper with the help of one of the people who contacted us about the home and found that the property was being shown on Trulia as a rental. She even went so far as to make initial contact with the scammer…
Hi, Thanks for your interested in my home, my home is available for rent and ready to move in, i wanted to Sell my home but with the advice of my Family and missionary worker i decided to rent it out and we are looking for a God fearing family that could take our home as their own. The rent is $1200 and security deposit is $600 and the 2,636 sqft and as 3 bedroom and 3,1 Bathrooms. Pets are allowed and rent is including the utilities Address: [redacted]. Neighborhood Description, very calm and stable neighborhood. Neighbors are great and they also enjoy the neighborhood. Lots of remodeling is going on around the area. I await your urgent reply, [redacted]
Having seen these rental scams before, I could spot this one a mile away, but these scams do get people to open up their wallets. There are ways to protect yourself from rental scams like these, so remember the following tips.
Avoiding Rental Scams
The first and easiest step is to always remember this simple rule – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Look for poor spelling (a hallmark of rental scams) and inconsistencies in the information you’re given by the scammer and in the listing. Often scammers forget their own lies and will change their story as they go deeper into discussions with you.
Most scams are based on the assumption that you send them the money, they’ll send you the keys. If you can’t deal with someone locally, don’t send money. The scammers want you to wire money to them or send them a Western Union payment. Once they have the money, it’s too late.
If you are contacted by the scammer, be careful what you give them. Keep private data out of their hands – credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, etc. We all know about the troubles associated with identity theft.
When it comes to renting (or buying and selling), use a local real estate agent. It may sound self serving, since that’s what we do for a living, but we get our data from the MLS, not a listing syndicator (such as Trulia, Zillow, etc., which are known to have these issues crop up). If there’s something you’d like to see that you heard about from one of these sites, your agent will cross reference it with the MLS and find out the real story. And our services are free to you, we get paid by the listing agent when you rent a property. If you want to search for rentals, you can use our site as our data comes directly from the MLS.
If you spot a suspected rental scam, notify the site owner and your agent. Sadly scams will always exist, but if we all do what we can to report them, we can at least slow them down and hopefully prevent someone from falling for the scam.
image courtesy of jepoirrier