I recently found out that one of my listings, a home for sale, was hijacked by a scammer who posted it on Craigslist as a Rental Property. Luckily, no one fell for this and I was able to take it off Craigslist. This issue, as unacceptable as it is, is way more prevalent than I thought.
Scammers are basically using info and pics from Homes that are for sale and advertising them as rentals on Craigslist, Backpage, etc... The rental price is usually lower than market value which entices people to act quickly on this "great deal". They're told to send in a deposit (Money Order or Cashier's Check) quickly to avoid losing their spot. Which, is a huge mistake..
I found some great tips and advice on the TheSpruce.com that I wanted to share:
Avoid Common Red Flags
Here are some common red flags to help you spot and avoid rental scams while looking for an apartment:
You're asked to send money without having met anyone or seen the apartment.It's not common to pay a lot of money for something sight-unseen. So, if a landlord expects you to pay a lot before you lease an apartment, it's a reason to be concerned. Don't rely on promises or photos. Actually visit any apartment you're considering renting. According to a warning on Craigslist, not following this one rule accounts for 99% of scam attempts.
The landlord seems too eager to lease the apartment to you. Many landlords want to know your credit score, and they may also want more information about you, such as a criminal background check and employment verification. If a landlord doesn't seem interested in any form of tenant screening or appears too eager to negotiate the rent and other lease terms with you, it's suspicious.
You're asked to pay an unusually high security deposit or too many upfront fees. If the landlord wants a higher security deposit than what's required by law, or if upfront fees seem excessive to you, it could be a sign that the landlord wants to take your money and run.
You feel unwarranted sales pressure. If a landlord acts too pushy, it can be a red flag.
You're told you don't need a lawyer. It's true you don't need a lawyer to review your lease, and generally speaking, it's in a landlord's best interest for you to skip lawyer review and just take the rental. But when a landlord makes a point of saying that you don't need a lawyer, it could be a sign that the landlord is trying to rush you into signing the lease and handing over money, perhaps because he doesn't really own the building or already leased the apartment to someone else.
You're told you don't need a lease. It's true you don't need a lease to live in an apartment. Although renting an apartment under a lease is the most typical situation, but a month-to-month rental agreement is fairly common. But only you know what you need. If a landlord tries to get money from you without considering that you might want a lease, think twice. It could be that the "landlord" doesn't have any lease to show you.
The landlord has a convenient excuse for not being able to meet you or show the property. The person behind a listing might say he's out of the country indefinitely or that he won't return until after you would need to agree to the rental and pay money.
What If You Get Scammed?
If you become the victim of an apartment scam in the United States, you might feel there's not much you can do. But there are steps you can take to help catch who's behind the scam, get your money back, and put this unfortunate experience in the past.