Just how many people have fallen for the rental scam?

Just how many people have fallen for the rental scam?

One of the scams we’ve talked about the most almost since day one is the rental scam. That’s for good reason as it’s one of the most prolific scams on the internet. If you’re unfamiliar with how it works, it takes advantage of those who are usually desperate to find a new home. The scammers will list a property online as being eligible to rent usually at well below market prices. They’ll ask for all sorts of payments such as deposits and first month’s rent but will almost always never be available in person nor will they let you inspect the property. Once the victim pays whatever money has been requested, not only will they be out that money but they could also be homeless as well. Usually, the property advertised is one that’s for sale by a legitimate realtor. The scammers copy the ads and change a few details to make it look like it’s a steal for rent.

For us, this is old hat that we’ve known about for years. However, even we were a little shocked to learn the actual numbers behind the scam. According to the Better Business Bureau, five million people have been the victim of some form of rental scam. That’s more people that live in the city of Los Angeles. If we say that all of those people lost an average of $1,000 to rental scammers then they would have collectively lost $5 billion. The BBB also says that a number of properties that have been used in the scam have started posting signs outside that say the property is not actually for rent.

As we previously mentioned, if a supposed landlord can’t meet you or wants you to rent the property sight unseen, it is more than likely a scam. Another red flag to look out for is a staple of the online scam and that’s the form of payment the scammer asks for. If someone claiming to rent a property asks you to make payment by wiring the money through Western Union or MoneyGram, it’s probably a scam. If they ask for payment in gift cards, we can almost guarantee that’s a scam. Both of these forms of payment allow scammers to run off with the victim’s money untraced.

If you’re looking for a place to rent, research is your best defense. Always do a reverse image search to make sure the listing has not been copied. If they have a website you may also want to check with the county assessor to see who the actual landlord is. These two steps will go a long way in protecting you from scammers as no one wants to join the five million other victims.