Rental Scams are on the Rise

Rental Scams are on the Rise in Palestine TX

Rental Scams are on the Rise in Palestine TX

Folks searching for rentals in Palestine are being scammed—these criminals are scamming renters, agents and landlords.  This is something to be aware of for everyone, as it is getting more common and is especially prevalent this time of year.  The internet is an easy way to pre-screen your next rental, but always beware when searching online.  Remember that anyone (anywhere) can post anything online with a quick click of a button. Use some of these tips to avoid a rental scam:

  1. PICTURES SPEAK- The first sign that you need to have your guard up is weird pictures.  Watch out for listings where all the photos are extremely blurry or too small to see.  This could be a sign that they have stolen low resolution pics from a legitimate source. If the photos have a watermark (especially from an MLS or from a real estate agent and the contact info does not match up to person posting the ad…it’s 99.99% a scam, but contact the agent and verify.)
  2. CAN YOU GO IN? – They can’t ever meet you at the property? They don’t have the keys right now? Yeah…no.  Never rent something if you can’t get inside to take a look. They may say they are out of the country…and that is fine, but wait until they get back to go inside first before sending any info.  If they don’t have keys or access to the house now, how would you get in once you have rented it?
  3. ABSENTEE OWNER – Any listing that says anything about the “owner” being out of the country for any reason (mission trips, Peace Corps, etc.) should be a red flag.  These scammers will use mission trips and Peace Corps service as ways to gain your confidence and make you believe they are a good person.  Don’t fall for it.  I’ve never known a legit landlord or agent who was out of the country and was still attempting to rent their home without a local presence. If it is legitimate, they can show the property, take paperwork and collect the deposit in person once they return.  There are very few legit reasons why you should ever have to wire money overseas for a rental.
  4. BUT…CHEAP! – The biggest red flag is typically the price.  If it’s a 2,500 square foot house with granite countertops and numerous upgrades advertised for $500 a month, there is a problem.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  5. YARD SIGNS – The house is also listed for sale with an agent, but the rental advertisement is not the same contact info as the real estate agent’s listing…this is all too common and is a big waving red flag.  They will give all kinds of excuses for the sign and possibly tell you not to contact the agent.  Few agents would take a listing that was for rent by another source, but call the number on the sign out front and get the scoop straight from the agent.
  6. STRANGE EMAILS – If you are in email or text correspondence with the “owner” and the message starts out with “Dear Sir / Madam,” the English is generally very poor, has strange word capitalizations, vague contact info, a myriad of irrelevant reasons for being unable to meet in person, or reasons why their ad doesn’t match up with other ads…it’s a scam.
  7. WIRED FUNDS – If they ask you to wire funds overseas or they want to send you a money order which you will cash for them and reimburse them the difference, or anything else that feels remotely abnormal….Run! It’s a scam!  A legit rental will have lease paperwork to sign at the same time as collecting the deposit. Legit leases don’t feel shady.

It’s sad that this is even having to be discussed.  I have caught several scraped/fraudulent listings lately.  These are local “listings” and sadly, it is happening here every day.  If you catch a scam, report it to the website immediately!

The bottom line in avoiding this type of scam is to use common sense. Trust, but ALWAYS verify.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  The majority of ads are not scams, but these types of cons are on the rise, so it pays to do a little homework to make sure that it’s a truly a good deal.

Lisa E. Priest hates a thief and is an East Texas Area Broker/REALTOR® and Property Manager with Picket Fence Realty, Inc. You can reach her via phone or text at 903-948-3343 or read more at BuyPalestine.com.

 

rental scams are on the rise