Rental property scams on the rise; how to protect yourself

Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: MGN

Rental property scams are often found on local buy, sell, trade websites such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Facebook groups, etc. With the heightened market and lack of rental property, The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office is warning you to be extremely cautious about who you do business with.

With the real estate market state, it’s a good time to educate yourself on popular scams. It may be in your best interest to seek out a trusted real estate professional to help with all of you real estate needs.

When engaging in a rental transaction, or real-estate purchase transaction through an online classified, consumers should fully vet the person they are going to meet and not deal in cash. Consumers should not render payment to third persons and not accept at face value that the person offering a lease agreement is entitled to represent the rental property. Consumers should also take heed of consumer safety recommendations to protect themselves and their money.

Signs of a Scam

Being savvy when you’re in search of a rental is well worth the effort. Here are some signs you may be dealing with a scam:

  • They tell you to wire money
  • They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease
  • They say they’re out of the country

Follow the rules below and protect yourself from falling for any scam attempts:

  • Deal locally and face-to-face
  • Do not provide payment to anyone you have not met in person
  • Beware offers involving shipping – deal with locals you can meet in person
  • Never wire funds (e.g. Western Union) – anyone who asks you to is a scammer
  • Don’t accept cashier/certified checks or money orders – banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible
  • Transactions are between users only, no third party provides a “guarantee”
  • Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, PayPal account, etc)
  • Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen—that amazing “deal” may not exist
  • Refuse background/credit checks until you have met the landlord/employer in person
  • “craigslist voicemails” – Any message asking you to access or check “craigslist voicemails” or “craigslist voice messages” is fraudulent – no such service exists

How to Report Scams

If you find yourself the target of a rental scam, report it to your local law enforcement agency and to the FTC.

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