Rental scams are becoming increasingly widespread. With the rise in real estate advertisement online and on trading sites, so is the risk for online fraud. It is all too simple for a scammer to copy a legitimate listing and mark down the price by hundreds of dollars. As a property management company, we have heard countless stories of the lengths these scam artists will go through to fool an unsuspecting renter. One instance even led to a renter meeting with the scammer (who was posing as the homeowner) and moving into the property!
The most common scenario: a scammer poses as the owner of the home and lures you into wiring them the security deposit and first month’s rent. Typically, they claim to be out of the country so they are not able to meet with you face-to-face. Most indicate that they will send you a key in the mail after funds are received.
So how can these scams be avoided? Bottom line: trust your instincts. If something feels off about the situation, you should probably reconsider moving forward. Do your homework. Try to find out more information about the property. Google the property address. Drive by the home yourself. Chances are you will find the original listing for the property or find a “for rent” sign in the yard with conflicting contact information. The # 1 red flag to watch for is a property that is priced significantly lower than it should be.