It isn’t a surprise that within seconds of hopping on Google a prospective home renter can find out everything they need to know about a potential house, including location, price, pictures, virtual tours etc… However, those exact same tools give online scammers the perfect opportunity to take advantage of consumers like yourself. The Better Business Bureau wants renters to keep a sharp eye out for fake ads on places like Craigslist and other internet services that only have one goal in mind, taking your money.
The most common cases of people falling victim to scammers like this is when they answer to an online classified for a rental property. Victims have said that they are asked by the phony landlord to wire money for the deposit as well as the first month’s rent before they can receive the keys to their new home. Whenever a prospective tenant asks to see the home prior to wiring the money, the “landlord” claims to be out of town or unable to show the property.
After this happens, many homeowners are shocked to find strangers knocking on their doors who were expecting to move into their new rental homes. Most of the time, these homeowners have their house up for sale, not rent, and have posted images and details online that the scammers have accessed and used for their fake listings. The Better Business Bureau is urging prospective renters to look for the following warning signals to avoid being scammed.
1) The landlord requires a substantial deposit before giving up the keys or showing the property.
2) The deal sounds too good to be true. Many scammers will have unusually low prices advertised to lure in victims.
3)The landlord asks you to wire money via services like Western Union or Money Gram.
4) The landlord is not local or is listed elsewhere and only wishes to communicate via email.
If you come across situations like this or the whole deal just seems fishy, then it is most likely not a legitimate arrangement. Get out and cut the deal before it ends up being too late and you lose a lot of money that you probably could not afford to lose.
Source: CBS 7 – Online Rental Scams Target Renters and Landlords 7/21/11