Rental fraud is a growing problem in many communities, and many sellers and real estate agents who have listed homes for sale find themselves the tool of rent scammers.
HERE WORKS HOW IT WORKS:
The scammer searches for desirable offers online, with websites such as Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow, and loads the pictures and information on the property. You then open a fake email, with public records, to find the owner’s name and pretend that that person is at yahoo.com, hotmail.com, etc. They list the property as rent, usually well below market value on free websites such as Craigslist and Postlets.com, which is to be used by brokers to distribute their listings on online websites.
At this point, some things can happen:
1. If interested parties send them an e-mail about the rent, they give abl. in the city to receive their information electronically. When an unsuspecting would-be tenant actually submits an application and personal information, he has opened up to a number of possible scams, including identity theft.
2. In some cases, when it is known that a house is empty, the scammer may even be brave enough to show the property to the would-be tenant. Then the scammer will tell the tenant that they have been selected to receive a deposit and a first-month rent from them, only when the tenant shows up to move into their new house, they find that they can not board, or it is already occupied, etc. Now they are out of money and the scammer is nowhere to be found.
These scams have created several problems for agents and homeowners, not to mention the unsuspecting tenants. Some people are unscrupulous, there is no way to change that, but you can take steps to protect yourself and if you are an agent to protect your customers.
IF YOU ARE A RETIREE:
1. Think of the cardinal rule of the thumb. If something seems too good to be true, it is most likely. If someone offers to rent you a 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house on the west side for 700 dollars a month, it’s more than likely a scam.
2. Research. Find out which houses are rented in the area so you know if something is too good to be true. If it seems so, then go to Realtor.com or Trulia and search the address to see if it is currently displayed for sale. Make sure you know what the owner’s name is (try the local county assessor).
3. Do not email anyone your personal information and be wary of owners who claim to be anot in the city or in any other state. If an owner is legitimate, then he should be able to meet you to get your documentation. And don’t be afraid to ask for I.D.! If you enter your Social Security number and personal information into an application, you have the right to protect it.
IF YOU ARE AN AGENT:
1. If your company automatically posts yourlistings online for you, check a few days after you have listed it to make sure that it is displayed as a sale and that all information is correct. Remember that the Internet is a powerful marketing tool, but the information is only as good as what you bring out there. Check your entry for correctness and verify that it is not also listed in the rental sections. You can enter the address in Google and see what’s happening.
2. Make sure you are in regular contact with your seller. Note if they mention a lot of extra traffic outside their home without brokers coming to show the property. Potential tenants often drive past the property to see it, and if your seller still lives in the property, they may notice the drive-bys. They don’t want them to be unnecessarily concerned, but just pay attention to everything they mention that sounds suspicious.
3. If you find that someone has accepted your offer and posted it as a rental, contact the website immediately. Most of the major websites have the option of marking a posting. I know from experience that Trulia and Zillow will have the fraudulent rental list removed within 24 hours. I would even recommend notifying the local sheriff.