As with any other post I have written, this one is no different. I draw everything from my own experiences.
I did not think of Rental Scams until I actually started looking for a new place. I went on Craigslist.org-one of the biggest classified sites on the web for rentals, sales, jobs, (you name it!) and also one of the biggest swarms of various scams. Basically, thousands of them overpopulate every single section of Craigslist.
My property search became more than just a search-I wanted to learn about these scams.
I shamelessly created a fake profile and I started investigating.
For this particular investigation, my name was Trudi Joy Bowden (very random). My address was 43 Umoron (get it?) St., #13; my employer was “Scammerscout Accountants, INC.” and employment address was 5553 Preezon Circle, #666. I am so funny sometimes!
There are several Rental Scams lurking around on Craigslist:
Rent to Own Scams
Although Rent to Own is a real option of owning a home, the ads you come across on Craigslist are scam.
In one instance, when I visited a link in a posting, I was prompted to enter my email and so I did (I have a fake email account I use for my research). Then, I started receiving emails asking me for a $5.00/month membership fee in order to get access to Rent to Own listings.
One of these postings only had a telephone number, so I called. Sean picked up the phone. As soon as I started asking questions, he hung up on me. Now, I wish I played along a little longer.
Credit and Background Check Scams
Out of all responses I got, there were a few “Landlords” (scammers) that stated that they are out of country and had a potential renter who signed a lease, but then disappeared and now, the “Landlord” wanted to “make sure that all inquiries are serious”. Therefore, I was “implored” (yes, they used that word) to “act now”, follow a link to a “free” credit and background check, which was not going to “ding” my credit history.
I never followed those links, but my guess is that they would lead me to a Phishing Site to harvest my personal information; or I would simply download malware.
Variation of Nigerian Scam
From what I saw, this is probably the most common scam. The scammers go to legitimate Real Estate listing sites, pick a random property, copy its address, photos, description and post it to Cragslist with a monthly rental fee unusually too low for the advertised area.
When an unsuspecting victim responds to this type of an ad, Scammer will send an email stating that he is out of country right now in Nigeria (or West Africa) on some type of a mission. The scammers have the audacity to mention legitimate charities and ministries. One of those companies had a Scam Alert on its home page. This is why it is important to pay attention to details like that.
The Victim is usually asked to fill out an “application” and send a deposit and a first month rent via Western Union.
This type of a scam is very lucrative. This is due to the fact that a lot of people are still unaware of these scams. Also, it is partly due to Western Union’s inability to have better identification process in place. All a scammer needs is a control number and a “secret” question with an answer. Shame on Western Union! And, sadly, the Nigerian officials protect these scammers. Your best defense is awareness!
How to Recognize Rental Scam
- Monthly Rental Fee is extremely low for the advertised area.
- Scammers claim they are out of country on a mission or business in Africa.
- They even mention legitimate organizations.
- You are asked to fill out an “application” or you are asked to do a credit/background check prior to meeting with a landlord.
- You are told that there is not going to be a property showing.
- You may be instructed to drive by the property.
- You are instructed to send a security deposit (usually about $700) and a first month rent for a total of about $1400-$1500 via Western Union.
- Scammers mention God quite a bit in their emails.
- There is always sense of urgency.
- There are a lot of misspellings, character and grammar mistakes.
Things to Remember
- You know the saying “If something sounds too good to be true?… You got it!
- Potential landlord would want you to see the place.
- She or He would want to meet with you, have you fill out a proper application, check your credit history and references and then sign a lease
- If anyone asks to send money via Western Union or any other similar outlet, RUN!
- Never give any of your information without meeting with a landlord and doing your research.
- Check public records to insure that the property actually belongs to the Landlord.
In a part 2, I will be posting some of my email exchanges with those scammers. Stay tuned…
Now, can you go to Craigslist and spot some listings that are scam?