Renters Beware of Online Scams

April 15, 2016Chris Bump

The saying “It’s too good to be true” absolutely applies to online advertising for rental properties. Over the past few years a dangerous scam has developed on all rental listing sites. A supposed “Landlord” posts his property for an attractive price and immediate move-in. After a renter contacts him about his listing, he claims that he is unable to show the vacant unit because he lives out-of-town and that no rental application will be needed.  He asks that the security deposit be sent to him by wire services or mailed money orders and he will in turn mail the keys. After several days or weeks, the renter realizes that the keys are not arriving and they just lost thousands of dollars.

 

This scam involves using pictures and descriptions from legitimate ads, but the contact person is changed to a fake landlord. These fake landlords usually live in a foreign country that has little law enforcement. Lately, the rent amount on fake advertisements are not that much lower than other comparable rental units making it difficult to recognize the scam.

 

The best way to prevent falling victim is to follow 3 steps:

 

1)  Always view the inside of a property and be sure you complete an application if interested.

 

2) If you are approved by the landlord, verify that he either owns the property or is authorized to rent the property on the owner’s behalf.

 

3) Never send payment by mailing money orders or wiring funds! If a landlord ever asks you to wire or mail funds using Western Union or other services, this will be a scam 99% of the time and you will lose the money permanently.

 

To verify a property management company, simply search for the company online and be sure there is a physical office in your city and an online presence. Typically fake companies will have no online presence (website) and will not have an office in the area. You can also look up state records to see if the company is licensed.

 

To verify an individual landlord is much more difficult. You will have to visit the county assessors office and tell them that you would like to know the owner of a property. This information is public and they will provide you with the owner on record. Typically, the owner will be under a company name, LLC or trust. You can request that the landlord show you a document that connects him to the listed owner on record.

 

Hopefully, these scams will be reduced in the next few years with help from law enforcement. However, be diligent and always follow the above steps to avoid losing thousands of dollars in the future.

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Property Management in San Diego, CA

Property Management in San Diego, CA