Watch out for Rental Scammers

Watch out for Rental Scammers

Watch out for Rental Scammers

Unfortunately, people in our town are falling victim to scammers. Literally, it has happened this week. This is something to be be on the lookout for—both for tenants and landlords. The internet is a great way to search for your next rental, but always be wary of scams. Anyone, anywhere can post anything online with a quick click of a button.

Check out these tips on how to spot an online rental scam:

  • Always Go Inside – If you ask to schedule a showing to see the property and they have all these reasons why they can’t meet you and won’t be able to for awhile (e.g. they are out of the country or out of state), it should raise red flags! Any property 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. Scammers have been known to use good works such as missionary trips and military service as an excuse for being pretty much permanently unavailable to meet and as a way to gain your confidence and make you believe they are a good person. Don’t fall for it. Never rent something sight unseen without speaking to the landlord or property manager in person. If they can’t access the house now, how will you get keys once you have rented it? This is the #1 red flag, don’t ignore it!
  • Red Flag Ads – Sometimes the ad itself can give you a clue that it is a scam. Keep an eye out for listings with pixelated or tiny pics. This can be a sign that they used photos from a legitimate source. Another sign to look for is anything that is too good to be true. If it is a 2,000 square foot house with a backyard pool and all the interior upgrades for $550 a month, something isn’t right.
  • Yard Sign – Take the time to drive by the house, even though you won’t be able to go in. Is the yard sign contact info the same person you’ve been speaking with? If you’re not sure, call the phone number on the yard sign and ask. He/she will tell you very fast if it is legit! The scammers may tell you to ignore the Realtor’s sign in the yard and sometimes will even tell you to check to see if it is unlocked. They don’t care if you go to jail for trespassing…Yikes!
  • Make Contact with the “Owner” – Most of the time, the scammers will say they can’t talk on the phone and can only communicate via email or text message. Ask when they will be available to talk. If the answer is pretty much never, then I’d suggest you move on. Also, be on guard if the communications seem like canned responses such as “Dear Sir,” or the writing is very strange, unclear contact info, sketchy reasons for being unable to meet in person, or reasons why their ad doesn’t match up with other ads. If they ask you to wire funds or want you to cash money orders for them and they will refund you the overage or anything else that feels remotely weird…run!

The best way to prevent a rental scam is to be wary—because you don’t know who you are really talking to online until you can meet with them in person. There are some great rentals out there, but beware of deals that are too good to be true and a “landlord” who is only able to communicate through a keyboard.

Lisa E. Priest wants to catch all the scammers 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.