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  • Geebo 9:02 am on December 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: campsite, , , , , rental scam, , , ,   

    You can be scammed at any vacation lodging 

    You can be scammed at any vacation lodging

    By Greg Collier

    Currently, we’re still in the middle of the Christmas vacation season. We hope our readers’ vacation plans went off without a hitch. Hopefully, you didn’t have to experience the massive flight cancellations that took place over the holiday weekend. We also hope your vacation lodging was also to your liking.

    The reason we brought up lodging specifically it that there have been a coupe of stories in the news about people being scammed out of their lodging choices. For example, vacationers to Marco Island, Florida, showed up to what they thought were vacation homes that they rented, only to find out they were rented to someone else. It seems that the victim in these cases paid money to scammers who listed the vacation rentals online but didn’t actually own the properties they claimed to rent. This is just a variation of the rental scam where people think they’re renting a home they found on craigslist when the home is either actually for sale or being rented by a real estate agency instead of some guy from craigslist.

    So instead of getting a rental home, you decide to go camping. There’s no way you can be scammed camping, right? It turns out you can, The state of Indiana is warning campers about third-parties who are claiming to rent out campsites at state parks and forests. The scammers collect the money, but when the campers get to the site they thought they paid for, the site has actually been rented to someone else. In the Hoosier State, campers can only reserve campsites in the state parks through the state itself. Check to see if the state you’re going camping in has the same rules.

    Hotels and short-term rental platforms like Airbnb have their own set of scams to worry about. You can read more about those here and here.

    If you chose to stay home for the holidays this year, you may have made the safest choice of all.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , rental scam,   

    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.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Coinstar, , , rental scam,   

    You can’t rent a house through Coinstar 

    You can't rent a house through Coinstar

    By Greg Collier

    I think we can honestly say that this is one of the more unusual rental scams that we’ve heard of.

    It starts out as your typical rental scam. A scammers has listed a home for rent online that they don’t own at a below-market price. An Arizona man responds to the listing and wants to see the house first before giving the phony landlord any money. The scammer tells the man that the house is open, so the man can see it at his convenience. That part was true, the house was left open for the man to tour. While this is not the part of the scam that we find unusual, scammers often make appointments with realtors to get the codes to the lockboxes realtors use to secure the houses. The scammers then give the code to prospective victims, so they can tour the home. This tactic more than most makes the scammers appear legitimate.

    The man wanted to rent the home and told the scammers so. This is where the unusual part comes in. The scammers told the man to go to Coinstar. We all know Coinstar. It’s where we take all our loose change to convert into dollar bills. However, Coinstar can also be used to convert money into two of scammer’s favorite currency, gift cards and Bitcoin. Thankfully, this was the red flag that made the man realize this was a scam. The house wasn’t even for rent, it was for sale. The scammers copied the legitimate listing posted by the realtor and then made their ad look like they were renting the house. That’s the most common tactic of the rental scammer.

    Before you contact anybody about touring a home you saw listed online, you should do a web search of the address of the home. This can often show you the actual rent and the actual realtor selling or renting the home. Zillow and Raltor.com are great ways to help detect fraud, as many phony listings are blatantly copied from these platforms. Also, no legitimate rental agency or realtor is going to ask you to pay any application fees are down payment in gift cards or cryptocurrency.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , landlords, , rental scam,   

    The rental scam from the landlord’s perspective can teach us a lot 

    By Greg Collier

    Recently, landlords have gotten a bad rap due to the eviction crisis brought about by the pandemic. However, many of them are just hardworking people using a property investment to make their living. When it comes to rental scams, we don’t often think of the legitimate landlord as being a victim of the scam. While they may not be losing money like the typical rental scam victim, they are spending precious time and resources to combat the scammers.

    In a typical rental scam, scammers will copy a legitimate listing of a home that’s for rent or for sale. The scammers will then post the property for rent on unmoderated platforms like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Usually, the property will be listed at below-market value rent to try to entice a victim. Once the victim is hooked, the scammers will ask for money in the form of a deposit or first and last month’s rent. Some victims have even tried to move into the property, only to find that someone else is legally living there.

    A landlord from Vermont was recently interviewed by her local media, and she said that she continues to see her properties listed on craigslist by scammers. She also said that scammers are listing her properties on craigslist that aren’t even up for rent. This has led to people knocking on the doors of rented homes asking if they can see the property. The landlord also said that within a 48-hour period, her team will flag up to 15 fraudulent listings on craigslist. It doesn’t help that scammers are also flagging legitimate listings on craigslist as scam ads.

    So, as we always recommend, do your research in a property before committing any money to the process. A web search of the address can reveal a lot such as the legitimate listing if it is, in fact, for rent. Such a web search can also tell you what the typical rent is for that kind of property in the area. However, the best way to prevent falling into a rental scam is to check with the county’s tax assessor’s office or website to find who truly owns the property.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , rental scam,   

    Family taken in Bitcoin rental scam 

    Family taken in Bitcoin rental scam

    By Greg Collier

    A family from Eastern Pennsylvania is in the process of relocating to South Carolina due to one of the heads of the household being hired for a new job. The family found the ideal home for rent that they were looking for. It was in the perfect location and was well within their price range. The first problem was that the family found the home on craigslist, which the report we found this story on called “a favored hangout for scammers.” Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of the family’s problems.

    After the family responded to the ad, they thought everything appeared normal. The people they were communicating with appeared to be from a rental company. The family was even sent a rental agreement to sign. However, all communication was done by text and email, which should have been the first sign that this rental company may not be on the up and up. The next sign was that the so-called rental agency asked for a $3500 deposit to be paid in Bitcoin. The scammers had to instruct the family on how to make the Bitcoin payment. After the payment was made, all communication from the supposed seller stopped.

    If you’re looking to rent a home, especially one that’s multiple states away, you really need to research the listing for legitimacy. A web search for the property’s address can turn up so much information, like if the home is actually for sale instead of being for rent. That search may also show that the rent isn’t as cheap as the initial listing said it was, as scammers usually list the home’s rent as cheaper than market value to entice victims. You should also ask for a live virtual tour of the home before making any deposits. If the landlord doesn’t communicate by phone, that’s also a good indicator the listing might be a fake. Lastly, never pay a deposit in any kind of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. While Bitcoin can be traced, it’s anonymous enough that victims rarely, if ever, get their money back.

     
  • Geebo 8:11 am on August 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , rental scam, ,   

    More tips on how to avoid a rental scam 

    By Greg Collier

    Since the dawn of online classifieds, the rental scam is probably only 2nd in frequency to the fake check scam. For two decades, rental scammers have been stealing the money from families looking to rent a new home. More often than not, the victims of these scams end up losing the last of their money, so not only can they not move, but they can’t pay the rent at their current residence. While we have much empathy for the victims of rental scams, it is one of the more preventable online scams.

    For example, a woman in Cincinnati recently fell victim to such a scam. She found a house for rent on Facebook Marketplace that was a two bedroom home for just $700 a month. The scammer sent the victim pictures of the home’s interior, but said they couldn’t show the home because they were out of state. The victim still filled out an application and sent a deposit and two months rent to the scammer over the payment app Zelle. In total, the victim lost over $2000.

    Currently, there are simple steps to prevent you from falling victim to this scam. The first thing you should do is a do a web search of the property’s complete address, zip code and all. This first listings in the search should bring up real estate websites Zillow and Realtor.com. Zillow can give you an idea of a more realistic rent, as scammers will almost always list the property well below market value. Realtor.com will let you know if the property is being rented by a real estate agency and their contact info. If that information doesn’t match what you’re being given, you may be dealing with a scammer. If you do a reverse image search from the listing you found, it might take you to one of these websites, meaning the pictures were stolen.

    There are also the red flags of the ‘landlord’ not being able to show the property and the payment through apps like Zelle and Cash App.

    Lastly, if you want to be absolutely sure that you’re dealing with the legitimate owner of the property, do a check with the county’s tax assessor’s website or office.

    It’s better to do a little research to avoid being scammed than acting rashly and losing your money.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , rental scam,   

    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.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , rental scam,   

    House keys do not make a landlord 

    House keys do not make a landlord

    By Greg Collier

    A man from the Triangle area of North Carolina recently found himself out of $4000 after falling victim to a rental scam on Craigslist. He was looking for a property to rent for his family and found one for $900 a month. That is believed to be below current market value at the time of this posting. Thinking that he had found a great bargain, the man texted the supposed owner of the home and was asked about his work history, his previous rental history and whether or not he had any pets. Sounds legit so far, right?

    The man was then asked to send a copy of his driver’s license and a selfie. The man was then told by the ‘landlord’ that the landlord will send him the combination to the lockbox so the man could get the key and tour the home. The man ended up paying a $1800 deposit when the scammer offered an even better deal. The scammer told the man that if he paid two months rent up front, the third month would be free. The man sent the scammer another $2000.

    As you can probably surmise, when the man went to move his family in, another family had already settled into the home. So, you might be wondering how the scammer was able to get the combination to the home’s lockbox. All the scammer needs to do is call the legitimate realtor and tell them that they want to tour the home. Once he gets the combination from the realtor, he gives it to the victim.

    All of the communications between the victim and the scammer were done through text and email. If a property owner, landlord, etc. doesn’t meet you in person, the odds are pretty good that you’re being scammed. Before putting any money down on a rental home, check with the county to make sure who actually owns the property and who is renting it, as many craigslist rental ads are just copied from legitimate real estate listings.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , rental scam,   

    Rental scammer takes advantage of pandemic victims 

    Rental scammer takes advantage of pandemic victims

    By Greg Collier

    As we’ve said in the past, the rental scam is probably the most common online scam. It has several variations, but they all result in the same thing, the victim pays for a home rental. More often than not, these scammers are from overseas, however, since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, we’ve seen more and more domestic scammers getting involved with rental scams. One of those scammers was recently arrested after taking advantage of desperate families for over six months.

    The 38-year-old Florida woman was said to have placed ads for rental properties on both Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. As with most rental scams, she allegedly copied ads from legitimate real estate listings and posted them online with her contact information. She is said to have collected deposits from over 20 victims who were desperate to find housing during the pandemic. Her victims ranged in age from 20 to 71. After she received the payments through a payment app she would then ignore and block her victims. Currently, she’s believed to have swindled over $20,000 from her victims.

    Rental scammers are always looking for victims who are in vulnerable situations such as needing immediate housing. This way, the scammers know they can catch their victims off-guard and get them to make mental mistakes that would benefit the scammer. These include sending money through payment apps like Zelle and Cash App. Victims who pay through these apps can be easily blocked by scammers after the victim loses their money.

    Even if you find yourself in a desperate housing situation, it always pays to research the property in question. If the property is actually for rent, the county’s tax assessor office or website will be able to tell you who actually owns the property. If the name doesn’t match the person or organization claiming to rent the property, it’s more than likely a scam.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , rental scam, , ,   

    A lockbox doesn’t mean it’s not a scam 

    A lockbox doesn't mean it's not a scam

    By Greg Collier

    Many real estate services and platforms use what’s known as a lockbox on their rental properties. It is essentially an electronic box that allows access to the property. A prospective renter can then enter a code that gives them access to the keys so they can tour the property. A lockbox like this on a property can give the impression that whoever has access to the lockbox code must be a legitimate landlord. As we’re about to show you, that isn’t always true.

    A man from Louisville, Kentucky recently inquired about a home for rent that he found on Craigslist. That’s already not a good sign already as Craigslist has long been ground zero for internet scammers of many forms. Anyway, the supposed landlord told the Louisville man that the man can take a self-guided tour of the home using the Rently platform and provided a man with the code number for the lockbox.

    The man toured the home and told the Craigslist landlord he wanted to rent the home. The landlord said there would be a $2500 deposit and sent a lease to the man. The phony landlord almost got away with it too except he kept pressuring the man to pay the $2500. It was at this point that the man realized this might be a scam. The man then checked the property records of the home and discovered that the home wasn’t being rented by someone with the landlord’s name. Instead, it was being rented by a property management company.

    We’re not sure how the lockbox codes are falling into the hands of scammers unless the codes are not being changed regularly. If that’s the case, we can imagine a number of scenarios where the code number could be obtained.

    If you’re ever looking to rent a home that you’ve found online, we always recommend going to the county’s tax assessor office or website to verify who exactly owns the property. While it may take a little extra time and effort to find this information, it could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

     
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