Online Rental Scams Target Renters and Landlords
BBB cautions consumers when using online websites to find a rental home
AUSTIN, Texas - July 20, 2011 – Within seconds of searching the Internet, potential home renters can find all the information they need about a possible new home, such as pictures, prices and virtual tours. However, such tools give scammers the perfect opportunity to take advantage of consumers. Better Business Bureau warns renters to be on the lookout for phony ads on Craigslist and other Internet services aimed at stealing money.
Consumers typically fall victim to these scams after responding to an online classified for a rental property. Victims say they are asked by the supposed landlord to wire money for the deposit and first month’s rent in order to receive the keys to the rental home. When asked if the renters can view the property prior to wiring money, the landlords claim to be out of the country and unable to show the house.
As a result of this scam, many shocked homeowners have received knocks at their doors from people who were planning to move into their new rental home. Often, the actual homeowners have their house up for sale — not rent — and have pictures posted online that the scammers steal for their phony listings.
BBB warns consumers of the following red flags:
·The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced. 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. If the landlord is truly overseas, there is also no way to get a copy of a lease or keys.
· 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. Most reputable Realtors 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.
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