Rental Property Scams: How They Work
The Rental Property Scam is back with a new twist. The Coronavirus pandemic has shaken up the whole world in an unprecedented way. Unfortunately, a lot of criminals are using the situation to their advantage, and a variety of fraudulent practices in all industries have sprung up. The home buying scams are now multiplying, as a result of countless fake house ads on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace scams. Let’s take a look at the traits of the apartment rental frauds and how they work.
The new COVID-19 pandemic has been applied to agelong common rental scams and is yielding different results. One of the popular tactics that have been revised includes the Rental Property Scam. This scheme involves crooks who post a fake ad of a house, which they claim to be their own. They find the information about the legitimate rental property on specialty websites, and all they do is copy the ad while taking’ ownership’ of the place with a fake listing on a different platform. There are tons of Craigslist scams like that.
As a way to attract people, the rent amount for this property is below the market average.
In a nutshell, when consumers end up contacting the fake realtor, the scammer invites them to see the apartment/house but says because of the COVID-19 restrictions, he will not be able to meet, as everyone is in quarantine. “It makes sense,” the victims think, not knowing they are just about to lose some money.
However, the renter is required to go ahead and check out the property from outside. If interested, he/she is asked by the scammer to make a payment online – since the quarantine is still on – for the first month’s rent. Or a security deposit. “We could sign the tenant-landlord lease in a few days when the Coronavirus situation gets a little better, or online,” says the scam artist.
“However, it’s important that you need to secure the rent now because we need to communicate with the property management company that our prospective renter is serious about it. That’s why we need to ask for the upfront fees as a new tenant. You can send the money anytime now, and we will send you the lease via email”, says the fraudster. The rental scammer may include an application fee in his blurb, as it’s a “mandatory” rule of the property owner.
They don’t even allow renters the chance to meet with the landlord or the property manager, for the same reason: the COVID-19 precaution. This situation is quite pitiful because a long list of people manages to fall victim to the rental scam, most of them as a result of the fake house ads on Craigslist and the plethora of bogus Facebook Marketplace apartment rentals.
Sometimes, the renters are asked to make an initial deposit of $2,500 or higher by wiring money through Moneygram or Western Union. Alternatively, it could be done using a money order, cashier’s check, or even through a fake Cash App payment – which should be the first red flag.
Watch the video below to see the Rental Property Scam exposed:
Rental Property Scam: How To Avoid
Don’t be fooled. Even during this period of the pandemic and with the social distancing that’s been advised by health practitioners, avoid making payments to a landlord which you’ve not seen before or with who you can’t establish physical contact.
You should be able to check things out yourself to determine the authenticity of the offer. Before meeting them, you must confirm the details about who you’ll be meeting and do a web search about the person or property in question. Do your diligence as a prospective tenant and guard your money.
A simple homework will reveal a lot of vital information about the property, the landlord or real estate agent in charge of it. To get a more specific response about what you need to know, you can confirm with the county’s assessor’s office or website. Prospective buyers have to make sure that they do some other research to protect themselves from fraudsters.
How to Identify Fake House Ads on Craigslist
You must learn how to identify the fake house ads on Craigslist. So, what are the things to look out for?
The scammer will present you with an attractive rental offer but one that lacks info about a real estate agency. It may contain just a phone number without any real backup information. There’s usually no way to verify the fake realtor through a website page or even an office address.
When you get in contact with the fake realtor, they’ll present you with a bogus offer or below market valuation for the property to attract you as a tenant. Avoid any unrealistic promotions or offers that they may give to you, especially if you don’t even sign a lease.
The fake realtor will offer a virtual tour of the home versus a real visit. You must go to the homes you’re interested in renting or buying to check things out. Ask to get in. If you can’t, stay away. Don’t accept any virtual tours or empty promises. They could scrap that from the property management agency or the legitimate realtor’s website or online profile.
They will ask you to make an upfront payment for the property without seeing it. You won’t be asked to make payments to any official channels. Instead, it will be via wire or unofficial means.
Avoid giving away additional information such as your credit card details, social security number, or credit check. Criminals are very good at this scam and make any potential tenant believe everything they say quickly. A rental home should always be visited, as there might be any internal issues as well (plumbing, heating, etc.).
Check the rental listing on all the specialty websites out there. Look for the address, features, and, most importantly, for the contact person – all of them need to be consistent. Make sure there is a legitimate landlord so that you don’t fall victim to this rental fraud.
Follow the same guidelines, even if you are considering a vacation rental. The dynamics of the scheme are very similar to the ones presented here. Avoid any fraudulent listing in that niche by reading about the Vacation Rental Scam.
Happy apartment hunting while trying to avoid the fake house ads on Craigslist!
We will end this material by exposing a few other apartment rental scams. Read the articles below and educate yourself about these dangerous tricks:
- Current Tenant Rents Out Your Property Scam
- Fake Realtor Sets Up Rental Listing Scam
- Potential Renter Scam
- New Renter Reference Scam
- Security Deposit Scam
- Rent-to-Own Property Scam
- Your Renter Sells Your House Scam
- Apartment List for Foreign Investor
Property Rental Scams: How To Report
Warn your family and friends about the Property Rental Scam by sharing it on social media using the buttons provided. You can also officially report the scammers and any fake house ads on Craigslist (or Facebook Marketplace apartment rentals) to the Federal Trade Commission using the link below:
How To Prevent The Fake House Ads on Craigslist, Identity Theft and More
If you want to be the first to find out the most notorious scams every week, feel free to subscribe to the Scam Detector newsletter here. You’ll receive periodic emails – we promise not to spam. Last but not least, use the Comments section below to expose other scammers.
Verify a website below
Are you just about to make a purchase online? See if the website is legit with our validator: