The Better Business Bureau warns renters to look out for scammers on Craigslist and other online classifieds when searching for a home. Phony ads for rental properties are cropping up nationwide and are specifically aimed at stealing money from unsuspecting renters.
More than one-third — or 36 million households in the U.S. — rent, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Many find rentals through online classifieds. Unfortunately, some who think they found the perfect home have been set up by scammers.
Victims say they were told by the supposed landlord that they needed to wire as much as $1,400 as a deposit and then they would receive the keys to the rental. When victims asked if they could check out the property first, the landlords claimed they were out of the country and could not show the house.
As a result, many shocked homeowners have received knocks at their doors by people planning to move into their new rental homes. Often the real homeowners have their house up for sale – not rent - and posted pictures online that scammers steal for bogus listings.
Your BBB advises renters to watch for the following red flags:
The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers list a rental at a low price to lure victims. Search for comparable listings and if the rental you’re interested in comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via e-mail. Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work — don’t believe it.
The landlord requires a substantial deposit before handing over the keys or even showing the home. Don’t pay any money before inspecting the home, inside and out.
The landlord asks the renter to wire money through wire transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram. Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve. There is little recourse — if any — for getting your money back.
Start With Trust, for more advice you can trust from BBB on how to avoid common scams, visit wynco.bbb.org or call 970-484-1348 or 800-564-0371 for reliable consumer tips and information.