It is a shame that through the internet we have a way to make finding rentals easy but that people use the system to scam innocent people! Renters Beware!
A couple years ago we saw a flood of rental scams on Craigslist. I warned my clients and friends not to use Craigslist to find a rental.
Sadly my sister and brother-in-law were almost taken by a rental scam on Trulia this week. Luckily they asked me what I thought before they sent any money to the would-be owner who had supposedly moved to Maryland.
My brother-in-law found the listing below on Trulia.com.
The house is listed as having 1956 square feet, was pet friendly, and included lawn service and was renting for $1500 per month. Rentals in this area tend to rent for around $1 per square foot if not more.
*Sometimes you might see it a little less but if the rent is much less than this your scam alert should be going off!
My brother-in-law was taken in by the great deal and not thinking it could be a scam. He requested information there on the Trulia site and was contacted back by email. Here is some of the verbiage from those emails:
"My home is still available for rent and i am currently in MARYLAND with my family due to my husband new job that is why i want to rent my home to a tenant who is willing to take my home like theirs. Presently i don't have anyone trustworthy at CA who i can send my keys and paper work to,Just to show you the interior of my home.You can only view the outside of my home for now."
"before i can send my keys and paper work to you,i will send you the Rental Application Form,so that you can get it filled and i can go through your references as well and i will also want you to put down the Security Deposit: $1000,so that i can take my home off market for you to avoid other people from contacting me about the same home.Then when you get my keys and paper work,you can go ahead and view the interior of my home,if you really like it and ready to move in,then you will put down the Month Rent $1500 of my home as well.On the day you move into my home,then your rent starts counting.While if you don't like the inside of my home,i will require you send back my keys to me and i will refund your Payment,with immediate effect."
*Never send money to anyone in the mail like they requested here. Renters beware and be wary! Reason number 2 your scam alert should be going off.
*Something else to think about the above situation, if they don't have a property manager and there is an issue how is it going to get taken care of?
*Really think it through, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! If it doesn't all make sense don't let that great deal cloud your judgement.
In Trulia's defense they do have the alert below on the side bar of all the rental listings on their site and the "Read more" link takes you to more information on what they are doing to try and prevent the scams, etc. More of a disclaimer if you ask me but still it is a warning.
If you do come across a fraudulent listing, please report or "Flag" it. It is not easy to find where to do that but below the pictures there is a button that says "More". If you click on the drop down you will see "Flag".
So to summarize my best advise:
1. Do some research on the average rental price for the area. If it is way out of the norm, beware!
2. Google the home and see what else you can find out. Make sure the information on the home itself is consistent. If you find it listed for sale or that the description isn't the same, beware!
3. Never send or give money without proof you are giving the money to the legal owner or representative (ie. a property management company) Make sure the property management company is legit as well! Google them. Look for reviews on them. Look them up on the Better Business Bureau website.
4. If you do come across a fraudulent rental listing - take the time to report it!
5. If you are still in doubt, contact a Realtor you trust and ask them to see what they can find out for you.
DeeDee Riley - El Dorado Hills Realtor - Lyon Real Estate - CABRE#01499004
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