Beware of bogus home rental schemes | Business
From the Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas:
BBB is warning renters to be on the lookout for phony ads on craigslist and other Internet services when looking for a home. Bogus ads for rental properties across the country are cropping up, and are specifically aimed at stealing money from unsuspecting renters. While the names may change, the methods are always the same. In most of these scams, the perpetrator of the fraud is out of the country and claims to be unable to show the home or to provide additional photos when requested.
How does the scam work? Criminals typically search websites which list homes for sale. They then hijack the information and post it with their own email address under the housing rentals category. The houses are almost always listed with below market rental rates with the explanation that the owner had to leave the U.S. because of a missionary contract or a new job.
Victims say they were told by the supposed landlord that they needed to wire as much as $1400 as a deposit. In one instance, the interested party, a gentleman from Pflugerville, was asked by the bogus landlord to wire $600 for the deposit in order to receive the keys to a home in Tyler. Once the money was sent, however, no keys were received, and the listing was nowhere to be found.
To make it appear even more legitimate, renters may be asked to fill out a credit application. This provides the schemer with access to information with which they can commit identity theft in the future.
“Online ads have made finding rental properties much more convenient for consumers, and many prospective renters have successfully found homes through online classified ads”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Unfortunately, though, what is convenient for consumers is also convenient for someone trying to take advantage of them.”
BBB provides the following red flags when looking to lease a home:
The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure victims. Research the average rental rates in the area, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, consider walking away.
The “landlord” is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via email. Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work. Only deal with landlords/real estate agents/property management companies if you can meet them face-to-face and tour the property together.
The landlord requires a substantial deposit before handing over the keys or even showing the property. Don’t pay any money before inspecting the home, inside and out. A reputable realtor/property management company will allow potential home renters to view and see the property before taking any money.
The landlord asks the renter to wire money through services such as Western Union or Money Gram. Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve. Once the scammers have picked it up, there is little recourse, if any, for getting any money back.
For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to www.bbb.org. To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.