In a time when people are desperate to find a more affordable place to live, rental scams are increasing as con artists come out of the woodwork. Earlier this year a Durham, N.C. man fell for a rental scam and paid $2100 dollars in Bitcoin to a person he never met, who didn’t even own the property he thought he was renting. The victim had seen an ad, responded, was then given a code for a lockbox, and instructed to tour the property on his own. He didn’t find out until after he paid the security deposit and first month’s rent that he’d been a victim of a rental scam.
A James Island, S.C. woman lost $2600 after responding to a listing for a condo on Redfin.com. She filled out an application, was approved, and was told she needed to send a security deposit, first month’s rent, and a cleaning fee via a money transfer app. She never toured the condo, never met the person renting the property, and never heard from that person again once she sent transferred the money.
The North Carolina Real Estate Commission alerted residents to an increase in calls and emails regarding fraudulent rental ads. And because of today’s digital technology; rental websites, apps, etc. rental scams are no longer a rarity. To avoid being a victim of a scam, watch for the most common red flags.
- The price sounds too good to be true.
- The landlord/owner won’t meet in person.
- They’re demanding money be sent via apps.
- There is no screening process for renters.
- You can’t find the person’s name, or the name of the management company online.
- You’re being pressured to sign a rental agreement.
USA.gov has a page on their website dedicated to housing scams and offers tips for renters as well as property owners. Before renting, or choosing a tenant, do your do diligence. Renters should only go through vetted property management companies when searching for a place to live. And property owners should do background checks and meet the potential renter in person before agreeing to rent to them.