February 5, 2013

How to Spot A Rental Scam

Those of us in the real estate biz use online marketing tools for our listings all the time. Unfortunately, this opens up the doors for scam artists to swoop in and take advantage of people in several different ways.

One of the most prevalent frauds out there involves a person taking an active listing that is for sale then advertising it as if it is for rent. Then the person collects a deposit from unsuspecting potential renters and takes off with the money. In another scenario, the person collects personal information from potential renters including their name, date of birth, social security information, address, and sometimes bank account information to “verify eligibility” for the so-called rental. This can be even worse than a stolen deposit, because identity theft can endure for years.

There is another common scam that involves vacant foreclosed homes being rented out by bogus landlords. The fraud promoters change the locks on the front door, remove the lockbox installed by the broker marketing the house, and tell the new renters to just ignore the for sale sign in the front yard saying, “we tried to sell the house, but it didn’t work out so now we are renting it.” This type of scam is happening in many different price ranges and all over the country.

To avoid falling into this trap, be wary of online posts that have rents that seem below market value. This is how they lure in a lot of traffic on their post. Make sure that you aren’t sending money via wire transfer and be careful what personal information you divulge without meeting someone first and checking their credentials.

If you are from out of town, work with a licensed agent to find a place to live. To verify that a post is legitimate, search the address in a general search engine and see if it is advertised on multiple sites. Typically a scam will only be advertised on one site. Additionally, the tax assessor’s office can provide the actual homeowner’s name for a particular property.

If you can find a property to buy instead of rent, that is the safer bet. Especially in this high rent market, you may even be able to save yourself some money. For help in your search, give us a call today at 206-504-3660 or visit http://www.bellevueseattlehomes.com/