Phishing scams in the rental industry are fairly common, and if you’re not familiar with them, we want to tell you how they work and what you can do to avoid them.
How the Scams Work
Criminals scour the Internet and find legitimate ads for attractive rental homes, usually in popular neighborhoods. They copy all the information about that property, including pictures, and create a fake ad on a different website. They list their own contact information as the owner or property manager. Then, unsuspecting renters looking for a property find this great ad and contact the criminal. They end up handing over money by wire transfer or money order, and come move-in day, the criminal is long gone. That leaves the renter holding the bag, without access to the property or gaining access to a property that they aren’t legally entitled to enter.
Using Rental Websites
Phishing scams are as old as the rental industry itself. At Moxie Property Management here in Fort Worth, we avoid advertising on particular websites that we believe have a higher number of phishing scams than other sites. But criminals are really smart and each week with this hot rental market, new sites and apps are popping up. Criminals are using these newer and lesser-known sites to post ads and perpetuate the scam.
How to Avoid the Scams
As a renter, you’re searching particular neighborhoods for particular types of homes. You can realize quickly what the price points are for these properties. So if you’re looking for a three-bedroom with two bathrooms and a two-car garage in your favorite neighborhood and everything is leasing for $1,500, and suddenly you come upon a home in that neighborhood of the same size that’s $900 a month, then you know it’s too good to be true. Search that address via Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Look for other rental websites that list the same property. You may notice that there are price discrepancies and that other sites list the contact information of a property manager except for the one where you saw it listed for the lower price. The best thing you can do is to report that fake ad to the website. That will have a quick and more impactful effect on the criminal.
If you come across an ad you think is fake, don’t send money. Criminals are great at telling you what you want to hear. If you ask them why the list price on the property is lower than the neighborhood average, they will tell you that they own the property outright so they don’t have to cover a mortgage. If you ask why you are required to wire money to someone else, they will tell you it’s a spouse or a relative or a CPA. Stay level-headed and don’t fall into traps or desperate situations when you need to move quickly. Trust your gut and remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trusting that instinct will keep you out of the criminal’s trap and it keeps your money in your pocket where it belongs.
If you have any questions about how to avoid scams like this, please contact us at Moxie Property Management.