Isn’t it funny that when the online deals seem great, and when someone finds something that they really want, logic and precaution fall by the wayside?
Housing rental scams have been around long before the Internet. However, with the web’s ease of use and sites like Craigslist (where anyone can post), they are far more widespread now. This can happen to nearly anyone.
I bring this up because of this story, where a housing rental scam in Maine fooled one woman twice over the course of eight years.
Most of the time this scam works when someone collects money for a property that they don’t own and that they do not have a right to rent. Other times, they collect deposit money and first month’s rent for a property that does not even exist.
Dwyer did not fall for renting a fake house. Instead, someone saw that her home was for sale, took MLS information about her home, and posted an ad on Craigslist claiming the place was for rent. The scammer took actual photos of the house, and offered to rent the large three-bedroom home for just $700 a month. It was a steal that many people did not want to pass up.
She flagged the post and reported it to Craigslist. The ad claimed that the person who needed to rent the home was going to be out of the country and working as a missionary in Nigeria. The ad went on to ask the renters how many months they could pay in advance, when they would be able to offer a deposit. It’s unknown right now whether this scammer was actually able to get anyone to give him or her money to rent Ms. Dwyer’s property.
If found and charged, the con artist could face a charge of theft by deception in Maine.
Here are a few tips that will keep you safe when you are looking for a new apartment or house for rent.
- If the price seems too low for the area or the size of the home, then it should be an immediate red flag. Look at the price of comparable listings. If the property rental price is too low, avoid it.
- If the landlord is not located in the area and will only communicate through email, be wary. Often, they will say that they are out of state or out of the country to avoid meeting in person. Don’t believe them.
- If you aren’t able to inspect the house, walk away.
- If you are asked to wire money, do not do it.
- Check the county records to see who actually owns the property, and make sure that information matches with the supposed landlord with whom you are working.
Pay attention to that old cliché – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.