Social media and portals are excellent ways to reach out to prospective renters. However, today’s renters need to be more savvy about those who seek to target victims, rather than provide value to house hunters. While some sites are aggressive in their marketing approach, they provide a needed service such as access to properties, lending companies, and insurance products.
Others in the marketplace are not as benign. They use popular sites such as Craigslist and Facebook, pretending to be the owner of a rental property and advertising a very low price. There are often times easy giveaways that it is fraudulent, including:
1) The owner or representative is not able to meet in person at the property, so everything is done by phone (usually an out of state phone number), text or email. Though most things are now done from a distance, not being able to tour the home in person with a local contact is a red flag. On Facebook, they pretend to be someone with a fake profile and establish a connection with that identity’s friends so that it looks like a legitimate person.
2) The advertising is awkwardly worded or filled with symbols as the scammer(s) is often not a native English speaker.
3) The photos are taken from a MLS syndicated site, often from a different climate or community that is obviously not local upon closer inspection (think palm trees of Florida or California in photos but ad is for a small town in the Midwest). The home address given will even have a For Sale sign by the real estate salesperson but the online scammer will tell you he or she is the true owner and will cancel the sale soon.
4) The pricing is well below market. The scammer will tell you that because they just need someone to take care of it while they are far away as an excuse to let your guard down. This is what hooks a renter in despite the other signs staring at them in the face. With a strong market, many feel the pressure to act quickly and within or below budget before it’s gone. Remember the adage: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
What are they after? Enough of your trust to let your guard down, so you will give them funds via Western Union or some other method difficult to trace. Once the money is in their hands, you can be sure it will be difficult to get a hold of them again!