Watch Out For Rental Scams
Fraudulent Activity is on the Rise
When times are tough, desperation drives more folks into trying to take advantage of others though fraudulent attempts to rent property. If you’re a landlord or property manager advertising rentals on Craigslist.org, you may have received fraudulent emails. Or you might have been approached in person by rent scam artists.
What should landlords watch out for when it comes to rental scams?
Often, rental scammers offer to pay several months’ rent and security deposit up front, before they’ve even met you or seen the property. If you have a potential tenant who insists on sending you a cashier’s check or money order for you to cash, you should see red flags. Cashier’s checks and money orders can be reproduced easily. The lesson: don’t take the “For Rent” sign down until you have a signed lease application in hand, run proper tenant screening, and know that the tenant’s check or money order has cleared your bank.
A similar scam involves distant” tenants” who want to rent sight unseen, and offer to deposit funds directly to your bank account. Their letters of inquiry can sound very legitimate, stating that they are employed overseas, moving back to the U.S. very soon, have great credit, don’t smoke, etc. Then they request your bank account number to complete the wire transfer of funds. Remember to never give out your bank account numbers, even if the promise of several months’ rent up front seems too wonderful to be true—because the scammer has every intention of accessing your funds, not adding to them.
Another prevalent overseas scam involves a phony tenant who offers to send the landlord a cashier’s check or money order for more than the required deposit, with the request that the recipient wire the excess funds to an escrow account or agent. The victim deposits the check or money order, wires the funds, and then discovers the check or money order was a fake. The landlord is out the amount of the phony check or money order, plus the money that was wired.
Sometimes scammers will pose as potential home buyers, who then fabricate a story about needing to rent the property for several months before buying. Their reasons could be wanting to make sure the home fits their needs, because they’re waiting for their previous home sale to close, or to make sure they’re not allergic to the carpet or drinking water. Perhaps since the potential house sale is attractive, many landlords go along with a short-term lease, only to find out the tenants never planned to through with the sale. The scammers hope to find a landlord who lets their guard down based on a good story, and who waives normal tenant background screening procedures.
Finally, be aware of imposters who pose as you, the rental property owner. These swindlers show potential tenants around the outside of the property, take their application and security deposit money, and head for the hills! It might seem implausible that anyone would fall for such a con, but professional scammers are great actors, tell a great story, and make a living by making people give them their money. They’re very good at it!