Covid-19 used as part of rental scam

Covid-19 used as part of rental scam

Scammers keep using the current covid-19 pandemic to their advantage in new and creative ways by applying it to scams that have been in practice for years. One of the most common scams that we’ve discussed is the rental scam. This is where a scammer posts an ad online for a rental property they claim to own. The rent is almost always advertised as below market value. Also, the rent is almost always asked for without being to see the dwelling itself or meeting the landlord. In previous instances of the scam, scammers would give various reasons as to why they couldn’t meet the prospective tenants or show the property. Now, it seems that covid-19 precaution is being used as an excuse.

In Thornton, Colorado three different families fell for the same rental scam thinking they all had just rented a home for their families. Instead, they were taken by a con artist. The scammer had posted the home for rent on Facebook Marketplace. When potential renters would inquire about the home the scammer allegedly told them that due to covid-19 concerns he would give a virtual tour of the home. One victim of the scam paid $2500 to the scammer as a deposit. While the news report doesn’t say how payment was made, it’s safe to assume it may have been done through a wire service like Western Union or Moneygram. As you can expect, the scammer did not own the house and the property was actually being rented by a real estate agency and already promised to a tenant. This isn’t the only case of a covid-19 rental scam.

Even in this time of social distancing, if you’re looking to rent a home never pay a prospective landlord without meeting them in person. However, before meeting them, make sure they’re the actual landlord by doing a web search on the address of the rental home. This kind of web search should turn up who is actually renting the property. For a more accurate report of who owns the property, you can check with the county’s assessor’s office or website. It’s better to put in the extra research time so you don’t end up losing money and a roof over your head.