As tough economic times worsen, unscrupulous individuals create new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting persons and steal their money. You may have heard in the news about renters that suddenly had to leave the rental property because they were notified that the house they were living in was rented to them illegally. Not only do they find themselves needing to find shelter, they are also out of the deposit money and the first month's rent. Here are some tips on how to avoid this type of home rental scam.
Avoid scams by verifying all rental real estate leads you may be considering. Con artists often use Craigslist or local newspapers to place ads of rental properties. They may cut and paste pictures of nice homes from legitimate real estate listings, and list them under their name along with an untraceable phone number.
Look out for stories of landlords needing to rent a property in a hurry because they need to move abroad to serve as missionaries. They often make reference to God to gain your trust.
Do a search on the name and phone number of the "landlord." If the home owner seems vague about answering specific questions or rushes you to sign the renter's contract, it may be an indication that he is not the legal property owner. Introduce yourself to your prospective neighbors and find out if the person you are dealing with is the actual owner. Some scammers have been known to rent the property for a month and schedule several showings per day for a day or two. They give prospective victims a tour of the house, steal their money then suddenly disappear.
Obtain your rental real estate leads from a reputable Realtor or local real estate agency. They have access to many rental real estate leads in your area. By doing this, you can be sure that you are leasing through a legitimate agency.
Beware of checks or money orders written for more than the required amount if you are a landlord. Do not cash them or forward the difference to a third party -- a classic sign of a scam.
Delete emails that address you as "Dear Sir or Madam" if you have a rental property listed. Such emails often contain poor grammar. Others contain obvious expressions that indicate that they are trying too hard to use proper English. An example is when they offer to pay you an extra fee to delete the listing so that: "I may be rest assured that..."