Some of our good friends in the apartment internet listing service industry have put together some great information and helpful resources to help renters and property managers avoid scams that could cost thousands of dollars.
Dan Daugherty of rentBits.com has started RentalScams.com, which provides information on different types of rental scams. According to the site, first a scammer copies a rental ad from any rental site and pastes it up on a free online classified site, such as Craigslist, and simply changes the contact information.
RentalScams offers some clues to help renters identify such scams. Typically, the rent is way below market value. It can be hard resisting a $500 dollar a month 1 bedroom apartment in downtown Manhattan, but this too good to be true price is usually the first indicator of a possible scam.
If you cannot resist at least checking a deal like this out, and you do contact the supposed property owner, Dan cautions renters to watch out for a few that are endemic to scammer response emails:
- The contact will be out of the country
- The response email will contain misspellings and awkward phrasing
- A request for the security deposit in exchange for keys is usually made
- The contact will be unable to show you the rental property
Dave Dugdale, of PickRent.com, has put together a 9 question rental scam detection tool that is very useful for renters; the questions provide some great ways to help renters identify a scam, such as matching a Google street view of the address with a provided photo and using an exact keyword phrase search in Google to see if the same rental listing exists elsewhere on the internet. After a renter answers all 9 questions, the quiz provides a percent chance that the rental is a scam.
PickRent is compiling a known scammer database, comprised of email addresses, so you can even enter the email of the contact of which you are suspicious to see if they are a known scammer. They also provide a video called How to Unmask Rental Scammers, which gives a comprehensive rundown on how the scam works and how both renters and legitimate property owners and property managers are affected.
Upon looking around the internet for a bit, we found one rental scam in Ormond Beach, FL where a woman was able to obtain keys to a rental property by posing as an interested renter, after which she simply made copies of the keys, posted an ad in the local paper, pretended to be the owner and then collected security deposits.
These types of rental scams are out there and can cost thousands of dollars, so it is great that there are now resources to detect rental scams.