Scams are all around us, and one of the more distressing for a lot of consumers and Realtors these days is the con artist who spots a vacant listing which is for sale, runs a ‘for rent’ ad with extremely cheap rent, then disappears when he/she gets the deposit
and first month’s rent from the unsuspecting renter.
One version of the scam is to have the money wired or mailed to the ‘landlord.’ And that’s the last you hear of the ‘landlord.’
Lately the con artists have gotten bolder; they actually meet the potential renter at the house, where they have taken off the lock and re-keyed the house.
Sometimes they meet at another location, collect the money from the renter, and then give them a key which does not work. The renters find this out once they have gone to the house and try the key.
One owner went to his house which was for sale, and found people living in his property. They had been conned, and had to move.
One problem for renters is that rental properties are scarce. Everybody wants a good deal. But these deals only take your hard earned money and give you nothing.
Here are a few ways to protect yourself.
1. If you are wary, say that you will meet the ‘landlord’ at a police station. Police stations are public places, and there are usually cameras.
2. Ask for a business card. Ask for company phone number, email address, etc. Of course, these can be faked, but you are making them give YOU information rather than just giving information about you to them.
3. Realize that most legitimate rental agencies require background and credit checks, and if your contact just wants quick money ‘with no credit check,’ something could be fishy.
4. Some property owners DO have property managers, so you can question them about how long they have known the owner, how long the owner has owned the property, how long they lived in the town…any other questions that you think of. Be extremely curious. A legitimate landlord won’t mind questions.
5. Online is a convenient way to do business, but it is also so easy to get taken online. The best way to get a rental is to apply at an apartment complex, ask a Realtor for listings in MLS, or go directly to property managers.