Rental scams are not limited to long-term rentals. If you are looking for short-term or vacation rentals, you may also be at risk.
Scammers create fraudulent classified ads, often online, for rentals available in a preferred location. Ads are usually posted with a below average asking price to ensure a "quick sale." Scammers give interested consumers a rental questionnaire, which asks for personal information including: banking details, contact information, occupation, income and more.
Scammers portray themselves as landlords currently working overseas. They say that the rent is at a discounted rate to get good tenants who will "take care" of the property while they are away on business. Scammers also explain how showings/tours of the property are unavailable but a full refund can be given if the rental does not meet the consumer's satisfaction.
Once an offer is "accepted", consumers must send first and last months' rent (either by a money service business, email money transfer or bank wire) in exchange for the keys. The keys are promised to be express mailed to the tenant's current address. No keys are ever sent, nor is a rental available by the scammer. Victims are given many reasons to send extra funds (security deposit, pay for more months at a discounted rate). Victims are eventually made aware of the fraud and ads are quickly deleted and communication with the suspect is terminated.
Warning signs – How to protect yourself
- When searching for rentals, go to the address. Schedule a showing and confirm its availability
- Request a lease/contract. Review it thoroughly
- Complete open source searches on rental addresses to ensure it's not a duplicate post
- Do not send funds to strangers
- Contact Equifax and Transunion if you've provided sensitive information on applications
- Go with your gut. If it seems fishy it probably is
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