How the scam works:
After weeks of searching online for a new property to move in, you finally find a place you really love. You call the realtor and he arranges to meet you there. While you're on your way, he calls you and says his car broke down and he won't be able to make it. "But don't worry, though. The landlord will be there to show you around.", he tells you.
To apologize even further and to make it up to you, the realtor mentions that he will try to negotiate a lower price than what the landlord will give you. "Call me right after you leave, rather than signing a lease right away", he says.
You arrive at the property and find several other people interested in renting the place. The landlord offers a price, but you still want to negotiate a better deal and call the agent back. You work out a deal you're happy with and wait for him to confirm with the landlord. He calls you back shortly after and tells you the price is okay. All you have to do is wire him the money for the first two months and you're all set.
You rent a truck, pack up – but on moving day, you show up to find someone else moving in. It turns out, the realtor isn't an realtor at all; he just found the property online and reposted it with his own contact information. That's how you called him in the first place. He sends several people at a time to generate a sense of urgency for the potential renters. Kiss whatever money you wired to him goodbye.
How to avoid the Fake Realtor Showing scam:
When there is a third party involved (i.e. the agent) always make sure everyone is aware of the situation. Tell the landlord you've been dealing with an agent and see if it's something he does regularly. Check out any website for realtors in your city, to see if the one you talked to (but never seen) is listed there. Always do your diligence when it comes to working with agents. You don't have to choose the best real estate agent in your city, but at least make sure he exists, first.
How to protect yourself more:
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