Whalen Realty Group owner
It’s not uncommon for renters to look online for their next property, but they need to be aware of the growing number of rental scams taking place on Craigslist, Zillow and other sites.
The most common scam involves properties that have had their details lifted from legitimate online listings. The scammers steal the photos and information then online but lower the rent to entice victims.
Potential renters see the property listing and contact the scammer, thinking it’s a legitimate “for rent” ad. From here the scammers may begin asking for a rental application, which would include sensitive information and/or a deposit.
In many cases the scammer will tell the victim that he’s out of town and cannot show the interior of the property, but he encourages the victim to look at the outside. This is when the scammers push the victims to send money to hold the property. In some cases, victims can be left without a home, out several hundred dollars for a fake deposit and possibly open to identity theft.
Here are some tips to avoid these scams.
• Always contact the listing agent or company whose sign is on the property.
• Use a reputable site such as MIBOR.com as a source for listing information.
• Never submit a deposit if the person is not willing to meet in person to discuss the property.
• Be suspicious if asked to use a wire service for a deposit.
• If a listing appears to be a scam, report it to the police.
Property managers need to be aware of these scams in order to protect their properties from fraudulent listings. While listing a property for rent, it’s a good idea to occasionally search sites like Zillow and Craigslist to make sure no one has stolen the listing details and is operating a rental scam.
Whalen has worked in commercial and residential real estate for more than 10 years. She is a broker and a member of the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors.