Real estate rental scam alert

From the Better Business Bureau

Phony ads for rental properties across the country are cropping up, and are specifically aimed at stealing money from unsuspecting renters while listing homes that are actually for sale. If you are selling your home or know someone who is interested in renting a home, be on the lookout for scammers on Craigslist and other online classifieds.

Online classifieds have made finding rental properties much more convenient in recent years and millions of people have had successful transactions online. Unfortunately the convenience provided potential customers is also abused by scammers, who have found a way to make a quick buck by taking advantage of unsuspecting, trusting renters all across the country.

After responding to an online classified for a rental property, 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 home. When the victims asked if they could check out the property first, the landlords claimed that they were out of the country and could not show the house.

Calls to the BBB have included real estate agents who receive phone calls from suspecting consumers checking out the supposed rental before sending any money. Fortunately, these people called the real estate agent directly and found out the property was not for rent but had been listed for sale.

As a result of this scam, many shocked homeowners have received knocks at their doors by people who were planning to move into their new rental home. The real homeowners had their house up for sale – not rent - and had pictures posted online that the scammers could steal for their bogus listings.

Red flags to look out for:

  • The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk 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 - 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 and once the scammers have picked it up; there is little recourse—if any—for getting your money back.

If you are a homeowner who has had experience with this scam, please contact the BBB at 806/379-6222. For more advice you can trust from BBB on how to avoid common scams, visit