A growing concern that I’m observiing is a growth in scams targeting the rental market. It was suprising to me just how effective they are. In this post I just wanted to share some of the most common ones in circulation. Please be on the look out for these and just remember that if it seems to good to be true…..it probably is:
1. The Popular Home or Apartment
In this insidious scam, the “landlord” will list a home or apartment at an unbelievably great price. They’ll feature photos of an adorable place with the desired amenities. Of course, they’ll have dozens of people respond to the ad and most will want to snatch it up before it’s gone. This landlord is all too willing to please everyone too. In fact, he will collect deposits, first and last month’s rent, and other fees from anyone who’s interested – and then skip town.
The problem comes when all the renters try to move in and discover it was never the landlord’s to rent in the first place. In one case, such a “landlord” walked away with $60,000 in collected fees from potential renters from a single apartment. A slight variation of this scam occurs when the crook rents a house or apartment with the intention of re-renting it to dozens of people.
2. The Middleman
Sometimes the story is that the owner of the home or apartment is sick, out of the country, or otherwise unavailable and his friend is helping out by renting the place for him. This is called the middleman scam because renters never come into contact with the real owner of the property. If they did, they would quickly realize the property isn’t even for rent!
After a renter pays the deposits and rent, the “friend” disappears and the renter is out the money and still has no place to live. This scam can also be pulled off by people overseas. They do it by finding a photo of a cute house, then listing it for rent. They target people relocating to a new city or town who can’t physically check out the house and won’t know it’s not located in the area claimed.
3. The Over-anxious Renter
Rental scams don’t just target renters. They target landlords too. The most common is the typical Nigerian scam where a person will agree to rent a house or apartment and then send the landlord a check or money order for the deposits, rent, and fees. After the check is sent, however, they realize they “accidentally” sent too much and tell the landlord it’s put them in a financial bind. They ask that the excess be wired to them right away. What the landlord may not realize, however, is that the check or money order is no good. Whatever money they wire the scammer will be their own money, never to be seen again.