There is no denying that technology has greatly changed our world and how we interact in our daily lives. Especially in the rental market where long gone are the days of posting rentals on bulletin boards or newspaper classifieds, as renters are becoming more technically savvy and want to look for rental properties on-line from the comfort of their couches.
These changes are great, especially for the service we offer, but one must always be aware that there are scammers out there that use technology to their advantage. Scammers don’t only pose as landlords, but some will also pose as potential tenants. Meaning that for landlords it is important to be aware, screen potential tenants and use your best judgement and for renters, to be wary of listings that are too good to be true.
As a premium rental listing service, we do manually review listings and look for the common warning signs that a listing is fraudulent. However, occasionally a scam listing will get past us. In these cases, we always welcome any potential tenants to contact us if they have a suspicion that a listing isn’t legitimate and we will investigate their concerns. Normally, if it sounds too good to be true it probably a scam and the best way to protect yourself from being a victim is knowledge. Trusting your gut never hurt either.
Outlined below are the most relevant scams seen when dealing with on-line rental properties.
Overpayment scams are a type of fraud where the person receiving the check is actually owed money for goods sold – or a security deposit payment. The seller (or Landlord) receives a counterfeit cashier’s check, personal check or corporate check from the “purchaser” or “potential tenant” in an amount in excess of the amount owed. They are asked to deposit the check and wire the excess funds immediately back to the sender/potential tenant or the purchaser’s agent or shipper. Then the deposited check is subsequently returned as counterfeit and charged back to the seller’s (landlord’s) account.
Landlords should be suspicious of any check, especially if it is for more then the agreed amount. Consider an alternative method of payment, such as escrow service or online payment service. Also talk to your bank about the safest way to receive funds internationally when dealing with tenants moving from another country.
These landlords want to only communicate via email (where the language, grammar and spelling may be terrible). Usually the price on their listing is extremely low for the market! Smart scammers, will often use information and pictures taken from other online listings, such as those on real estate sites or other rental sites. This makes their listings seem more appealing and legitimate. Be wary of nice properties in popular parts of town that are prices far below comparable.
The story they tell you, often starts with them being suddenly transferred out of country and they want someone to care for their home until their return.
The catch? The keys to the property are still in their possession (overseas) and there is no one locally who can show you the property in their absence.
They encourage you to drive by and if you are interested, they have you fill out a rental agreement via email, sending a deposit (express mail a money order, cashier’s check or wire transfer via Western Union or MoneyGram). Once the funds have been received, they will then send you the keys. Once that has been done, the Overseas landlord has your money – but the keys to the property never arrive.
If something doesn’t seem right during any interaction with a tenant or landlord, we are available to offer a second opinion and will investigate if the need be. Please note that we never advise sending funds without having viewed the property or completing a lease agreement.
For more information on Scams & Fraud click here.