Not too long ago a friend of mine told me they had fallen victim to a rental scam they had seen on Facebook Marketplace.
After a few days of back and forth with the scammer, they realized it was not a legit house for rent and moved on to look for another place to live.
Unfortunately, this happens all too often in today’s market. That’s why I want to write this article to give you some tips for recognizing a rental scam so you won’t fall prey to con artists taking people’s money.
Ways to Recognize a Rental Scam
Here are a few ways to spot if you’re being scammed by a rental listing.
If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably really too good to be true. As much as I wish you could rent a 4 bedroom 3 bath house on a lake with a pool in the nicest neighborhood in town for $500, you have to realize that if there is an unbelievable deal on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace (and nowhere else), it’s probably a scam. The market price of rentals is what it is, and the chances of you being the one person who found that diamond of a place for such a great price are very slim. I would be skeptical of anything that is too far under market price.
Spell Check is your friend – If you’re reading an ad for a rental property, and there are multiple words spelled wrong or out of order, or even if there are too many capital letters, you should be aware that this might be a scam.
Owner is out of town – Many of the scams will be in the form of “I’m renting this for my uncle who is out of town.” When you can’t actually talk with the person who is out of town or see the property, but they still will gladly accept your deposit, your scam detector senses should start firing up. If they say you can’t see the property until signing a lease, the chances are that you’re dealing with a scammer.
You need to wire or send the money and wire it now – The high-pressure sales tactics and changing stories are strong candidates for scams as well. If they tell you there are two other people who are willing to pay more money than what you offered, then you might need to walk away because they’re just milking you for more.
Portable phone numbers are sketchy – If you are in communication with the person, but it ends up being a Google voice number or a number you call and then they call you back, it might be a workaround for anyone to actually know their true identity, so be careful if you can’t get a direct line to the person you are dealing with.
There are a lot of other things that might happen in your search for rental properties. Working directly with a property management company or real estate professional would be the best course of action. Nobody wants to get scammed and lose money, but these things happen every day. So take some time to educate yourself and read up on the following websites.
👉🏼 US Government: https://www.usa.gov/housing-scams
👉🏼 How Rental Listing Scams Work: https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/rental-listing-scams
👉🏼 Internet Crime Complaint Center: https://www.ic3.gov
As always, if you need real estate help, please feel free to reach out to me.