Scams increase as scramble for housing begins

By Greg Collier

Currently, there is a mad dash for many people to find housing. Between people looking for summer rentals, college students returning to actual classes, and just people looking for a new place to live, housing is at a premium. As is always the case, scammers are already using the market to find victims.

In a nutshell, scammers will copy real estate listings from legitimate realtors and post them on sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. The rent will be listed considerably below market value. The victim will usually be asked to make payment by money transfer or payment app. More often than not, the scammer will make an excuse as to why they can’t show you the property personally. Victims have even moved into homes before finding out that they’ve been ripped off.

There are several steps you can take to help you avoid these scams. First, do a web search of the address of the property. If there are several listings of the same property with different contacts and wildly varying rents, then something is definitely amiss. If a listing says that the property is for sale and not for rent, the odds are pretty good that the listing with the home for sale is the actual listing. You can also carry out a reverse image search on the photos used in the listing. Sometimes the same photos will be used on multiple fraudulent listings for properties that aren’t even in the same city. However, the most secure step you can take is to check with the county’s assessor’s office or website. They’ll have all the legal information about the property.

You can even take steps to prevent fraud if you’re the person renting the property out. If you’re selling the home, consider putting a ‘not for rent’ sign along with the for sale sign. Scammers will often come up with a story as to why the property is for rent even though there is a for sale sign. If you find your property being listed by a scammer, contact the website to have it removed. You can also set up a Google Alert with the properties address to be notified whenever someone tries to list the property fraudulently.