There are several real estate scams that are starting to pop up again that you should be aware of. There are two different scams that have been resurfacing in larger metro areas but could also show up locally. One has to do with rental property and the other one is homes listed for sale. Both of these have happened in our area in the past so you should know how to spot them and what you should do if you become a victim.
The first scam having to do with property for rent uses a listing on the internet which looks legitimate. Online sites such as Craig’s List or Facebook are used to post these fake listings for rental property. Often times the pictures and property information have been scraped from a legitimate listing and re-posted with the scammers contact information. Many of these properties are already rented so the “owner” won’t allow the perspective renter to see the property in person claiming that upgrades are being done or the property is being painted inside. The person claiming to be the property owner will use pressure tactics saying there are many people wanting this unit so you have to send me a deposit or several month’s rent right now if you want it. They will almost always ask for the money to be sent through a wire transfer, credit card or some other electronic form of payment to a random location which usually can’t be traced.
The second scam is similar but this time the scammer will find legitimate real estate listings for homes for sale and post them as rentals or rent to own properties at too good to be true prices. They will scour real estate sites like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com and scrape the listing information, including photos, and re-post it into a bogus listing on a fraudulent website or social media site. Sometimes it is very hard to tell the fraudulent listing from the real thing except that the pricing is well below current market levels. Like the first scam, you aren’t allowed to view the property in person and they will ask for electronic payment to secure the property at this great price. There have been cases though, where criminals have scouted out vacant properties and gained access to be able to “show” the home to perspective tenants or buyers. In order to combat
this, some owners and Realtors have starting putting signs in the windows of vacant properties that say “Not for Rent”.
This type of activity is much more prevalent in large cities where the rental/housing market is very active and people are constantly moving around but we are not immune to this type of fraud occurring in our area. Here are some things to watch out for if you are looking for rentals online: Contact information that includes out of area phone numbers or strange looking email addresses, not being able to view the property in person, lower than usual rent prices, requiring electronic payment methods only and pictures that look photo shopped. Be careful of properties listed for rent or sale in social media posts or on sites like Craig’s List. Of course, some of these listing are legitimate but be aware of potential fraud.
Our local real estate market is very active right now so the potential does exist for these rental scams to show up locally. Try to limit your property search to legitimate real estate sites and be suspicious of anything that looks too good to be true or a little off in some way. Never send electronic payment to anyone you don’t know or can’t verify is authentic and report anything that looks suspicious or any fraud you might encounter to the local police. Be alert and stay safe!