Single mother pressured into rental scam

Single mother pressured into rental scam

By Greg Collier

Sometimes life throws challenges in our way that we’re not ready for. One minor bump in the road can have such a ripple effect that we find ourselves hoping for a miracle, so we can escape a desperate situation. For example, a single mother of three from Virginia need to find a new home immediately for her and her family after recovering from a number of illnesses. However, instead of finding a miracle, she found a scammer waiting to rob her of the little money she had saved for a deposit on a new home.

She had found an affordable rental on Facebook Marketplace where her kids wouldn’t have to change schools. After filling out an ‘application’ to rent the property, the landlord said that there was another person who was getting ready to rent the property. If she still wanted to rent the property, she would need to pay the landlord right away through gift cards, since she couldn’t get away from her job. Unfortunately, she did end up sending $900 in gift cards to the supposed landlord for a property that wasn’t even being rented.

As with most rental scams, online listings are copied from ads where homes are for sale instead of being available for rent. Scammers will copy ads off of Zillow and repost them on free platforms like Facebook Marketplace. The fake ads will almost always have the same word for word description used in the Zillow ad. Then the properties are listed for below-market value rent to lure victims into the scam.

While everyone’s situation is different, no matter how desperate you may be, a rental property should be researched first before handing over any money. A quick web search of the address will usually bring up the original listing that the fake ones are copied from. And as with any scam, gift cards are a red flag in almost every situation. No real landlord or rental agency will ever ask for gift cards as a form of payment.

In stressful situations like this, are judgement is often clouded. If you can, always try to take a step back and ask yourself if this situation seems off or too good to be true.