Renter scams are too common in 2020. You need to understand how to protect yourself from scammers and the potential for a massive loss of personal funds. Here’s what you need to know.
How to Spot a Scam
Rental scammers have been perfecting their craft for years and are fooling countless people, even the ones who do their homework. Spotting a rental scammer is becoming more difficult by the day. In fact, they are now obtaining access to homes that are actually listed for rent or sale, showing the property as if it is their home or listing. So how are you supposed to spot a scammer? Follow these excellent tips on how to avoid getting scammed.
Surfing on websites, like Craiglist, for rentals where anyone can post anything increases your odds of being scammed greatly. Why? Because anyone can post anything and even when scams are reported the ads aren’t removed immediately.
If the monthly rent is too good to be true it probably is. In order for scammers to hit and run they create a “deal,” something everyone wants and if you don’t jump on it now someone else will.
Unavailable to View
Not all rentals can be seen at times, even legitimate ones, but if the property can never be seen that is a red flag. You should never agree to rent something you can’t view.
Landlord Isn’t Available
Is the landlord out of the country on a missionary trip? Scammers tend to make an excuse for why the landlord can be reached.
If the “landlord” wants you to wire money or give them money orders it could be a scam. Most landlords will require certified funds on the day of move-in, but not cash.
Limited Documents Required
If the “landlord” doesn’t make you jump through hoops and pull your credit, verify income or do a background check they might be a scammer. Landlords want to know who they are renting their home to. They are not going to hand over keys to their property to a complete stranger without doing research.
How to Avoid Getting Scammed
Scammers aren’t the only ones who take advantage of tenants, some landlords do it too. Here’s how to avoid getting scammed when renting a home.
Work with a Realtor
A licensed real estate agent, Realtor or broker can spot a scam a mile away. They may have to do a lot of research to determine if a home listed for rent is a scam, but they have the knowledge and tools to do so. The cost to use a Realtor to find a rental is usually free, so you have nothing to lose.
Verify the identity of the person you’re working with even if they’re a Realtor. It’s not uncommon for scammers to pretend to be an agent to earn a person’s trust. So don’t be afraid to ask for a copy of the person’s id and then verify the info. Search public records; see who owns the property, where they live, if you can see what they look like. Dig, dig, dig.
Sign a Lease
A lease will stipulate every term; who’s responsible for what, how much rent is, when the lease is up, who has access to the property, etc. Even real landlords may try to through something in, like pet rent or make the deposit non-refundable. So it’s important to read every line of the lease before you sign on the dotted line.
Document Your Move-In
At the move-in walk-through take photographs and document the interior and exterior of the property from top to bottom. Then send a copy to the landlord immediately. This way when you move out you’re not blamed and charged for the pre-existing condition.
Don’t willingly hand your money over to anyone! And keep in mind there may not be any red flags when dealing with a scammer because they are that good. So do your research or better yet leave it to a professional Realtor who can walk you through the process.