Rental Scams Still Popular With Online Criminals
The type of scam I want to talk about today has been around a while, but it may be starting to pop up a bit more again lately since it is making news in places like Reno, Nevada.
Here’s how it works: Some criminal (usually overseas) locates a legitimate advertisement for a rental property on a classified site such as Craig’s List. The crook then copies the ad and re-posts it on the classified site with a lower price listed.
For example, a legitimate property owner might offer a home for rent for $1500 per month. The criminal uses the exact same ad but changes the price to something like $900.
The low price attracts people that are looking to rent property in the area that the crook happens to be advertising in. When the potential renter contacts the crook that placed the ad, the crook comes up with some story about how he is overseas for some reason and in order to rent the property, the potential renter must wire a deposit overseas.
Asking for a deposit is pretty typical for a rental situation. In some cases, the owner of the property may want the first month’s rent in addition to a security deposit. The fact that the owner of the property wants the potential renter to wire money overseas is the big, gigantic, glowing red flag that should stop any potential renter in their tracks.
If you are being asked to wire money overseas (particularly if it is Africa) I’d estimate that there’s about a 99% chance that someone is attempting to scam you. Some victims have lost significant amounts of money to these kinds of scams.
Remember, these online criminals probably do little else with their time beyond scamming people and spending a lot of time thinking up new ways to scam people, so they tend to be very good at what they do.
If you’re looking for a place to rent, make sure you are dealing with someone who is actually in the area you will be renting in. Your best bet is to meet face-to-face, but with the temptation of the low prices the scam artists are advertising, people tend to get excited and probably do not want to lose the “opportunity” to someone else.
Although I’ve been pretty fortunate and have never been scammed, I have let my emotions get the best of me in the past and have done things I wish I had not done, so I know how easy it can be to get caught up in things like this.
We all know the old saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” If you are the least bit suspicious about any kind of rental you are considering, go that extra mile to make sure you are dealing with a legitimate property owner.