Beware of scams when renting

Its not uncommon for renters to look online for their next property, but they need to be aware of the growing number of rental scams taking place on sites such as Craigslist, Zillow and others.

The most common scam involves properties that have had their details lifted from a reputable realtor or property management company’s online listings. The scammers steal the photo(s) and information then place them on Craigslist, among other sites, but lower the rent price to entice victims.

Potential renters see the property listing and contact the scammer thinking it’s a legitimate “for rent” ad, from here the scammers may begin asking for a rental application, which would include sensitive information and/or a deposit. In many cases, the scammer will tell the victim that he’s out of town and cannot show the interior of the property, but encourage the victim to look at the outside. This is the point where the scammers push the victims to send money to hold the property. In some cases, victims can be left without a home, out several hundred dollars for a fake deposit and possibly open to identity theft.

Here are some tips to help renters avoid these scams.

  • Always contact the listing agent or company whose sign is on the property.
  • Use a reputable site such as MIBOR.com as a source for listing information.
  • Never submit a deposit if the person is not willing to meet in person to discuss the property.
  • Be suspicious if asked to use a wire service for a deposit.
  • If a listing appears to be a scam, report it to the local police department.

Property managers need to also be aware of these scams in order to protect their properties from fraudulent listings. While listing a property for rent, it’s a good idea to occasionally search sites such as Zillow and Craigslist to make sure no one has stolen the listing details and is operating a rental scam. Again, if a scam is suspected, property owners are encouraged to contact their local law enforcement.

Samantha Evans is a licensed realtor and broker with Whalen Realty Group, which has more than 10 years of commercial and residential real estate experience. She is a member of MIBOR.