You’ve probably seen several listings online (often posted on Zillow and Craigslist) that seem “too good to be true” because of how low the rent is or because you can rent to own the property with very little down, low rent and a less than stellar credit score. They seem too good to be true because most likely they are. These scams have become much more prevalent over the last couple of years and though your head might be screaming “This is a scam” your heart may be saying, “Wow it would be great to live in that neighborhood and maybe it’s true that the owner is building a bridge in Nigeria or has already moved and just wants to know that someone will love the home as much as they did” and is looking for a perfect renter/buyer. Below are some red flags to look for and hopefully wave you in the other direction!
* They can’t meet you in person and show you the home because they are out of town or out of the country BUT they trust you so as soon as you send funds via wire transfer or Western Union to cover the security deposit and/or first or first and last month’s rent, they will send you the keys. Note: If they send you a long heartfelt email about why they can’t be there or share a sob story, google search the first couple of lines of the email and you may find that it is one that is used over and over again in the scam market. Run!
* Don’t assume because the ad includes a realtor’s name that this is an actual listing. Research the name, agency and phone number to see if they exist and are actively working in the marketplace. Even if you discover that they do exist and are actively working, take the extra very important step to see if the home is listed differently on the realtor’s website. If so, and clearly their listing has been hijacked by a scammer, take a moment and call the agent to let them know so they can handle it on their end and protect their client. Good Karma!
* They will always ask you for your personal and financial information either via the internet, an email or over the phone. SCAM! Hang up or shut down. Never provide any financial information over the phone or online to anyone you don’t know, haven’t met or cannot verify as legitimate.
* If you cannot tour the home with an agent or the owner prior to committing to the rental, take a pass! This is Scam 101!
* If they try to rush you because there are so many others who want the property and it’s first come “with the deposit”, think twice. This might be the case sometimes, but never rush without doing due diligence.
* If you see a home with a big Rent To Own regardless of credit or Rent to Own this home for a few hundred dollars move on to the next listing. These are typically fraudulent. Don’t hesitate to notify the site or even local law enforcement of these scams so as to protect others who might not have read this blog!
KEYS: Be diligent. Do your research. Don’t rush into anything. Decide with your mind and not your feelings. And as always, remember that usually if it seems too good to be true, it is!