There are a number of online rental property scams. One of the most common today occurs when a scammer copies a bonafied Real Estate For Sale Listing from the MLS, and changes it into a For Rent Listing and places it on Craigslist, Hotpads and various other For Rent websites.
The scammer will locate the real name of the property owner, and then create a fake email address using the real name… such as BobCollett1971@gmail.com. In this way, the scammer can claim to be the property owner when returning email. They will get a temporary phone number from Google or MagicJack, and often it will look like a local number.
The scammer offers a below market price for the rental, typically offering a 30% reduction. So a property that would normally rent for about $900 might show up on Craigslist, complete with pictures, and the owner’s name, being offered for $600.
With quality rental property in high demand, the renter calls the phone number, or sends an email; and is advised to send money.
#1. Never send money or give information to anyone out of town who is offering to sell or rent real estate.
#2. Never send money, give social security number, or other information to anyone offering to rent real estate; until after they meet you at the property and have a key to get in.
#3. Before giving a deposit or rent money, verify that the person you are working with is either the actual owner, or a licensed real estate agent. There are no other people legally allowed to rent out real estate. Every real estate agent has a business card with the photo on it, and a page on the broker’s website. Google the broker website to make sure it matches an active agent. If you are dealing directly with an owner, it is a good idea to ask to see their driver’s license. A legitimate owner will usually ask to see yours.
Note: In an older version of this scam, the scammer will rent a property from a lazy owner; then proceed to re-rent the property many times, collecting first month’s rent and security deposit from each prospective tenant.
Once again, verify the persons identity, check their driver’s license and photo ID.
You can go to the county auditor’s website, and find out who is the owner of any property in Cuyahoga County.
In most cases, the victim senses something is not quite right, but is lured by the chance to get a great deal. Remember, most con men have much more experience at conning victims, than the rest of us have avoiding them. They seek out the desperate, and offer them a deal that is almost too good to be true.
Bob Collett is the property manager for Remax Trinity in Brecksville Ohio; working for investment owners, individuals who end up with a house they can’t sell, and renters of these homes. 216-650-6915