What Are Rental Scams?
According to Hannah, the following things were done that, in hindsight, were highly suspicious and clear that it was part of the rental scams hitting Craigslist and social media platforms:
Younger Renters More At Risk
Younger renters are more likely to experience rental fraud, with 9.1 percent of 18 to 29-year-old renters having lost money on a rental scam, compared to 6.4 percent of all renters.
Most Lose $1,000 or More
Of renters who have lost money in rental scams, one in three have lost over $1,000, likely after paying a security deposit or rent on a fraudulent property.
Hard Lessons Learned
An estimated 88.3 percent of renters who have lost money from rental fraud changed how they search for rentals. For example, some conduct additional research and others make sure to visit properties before paying.
How Do I Know If I Have Become the Victim of Rental Scams?
Usa.gov says it best in their article about Housing Market Scams: “Rental scams happen when either a property owner or potential tenant misrepresent themselves. Rental scams also misrepresent the terms and availability of a rental property. Fake ads and fake responses to rental ads can hurt both tenants and property owners.” While Hannah may feel like she’s all alone, unfortunately, her experience is all too common. According to a 2018 study from ApartmentList, an estimated 43.1 percent of renters have encountered a listing they suspected was fraudulent, and 5.2 million U.S. renters have lost money from rental fraud.
Sketchy Owner Behavior
The “owner” would/could not show her the house. He told her to go by and look through the windows and doors to make sure she liked it.
There were heavy grammatical errors in the emails that were sent back and forth.
An elaborate story was made up as to where this person was and where to send the money, which changed several times as to whom the check was being mailed.
Offer Too Good to Be True
The price was “too good to be true” (because it was).
Shady Social Media Offers
The ad was made over a social media platform and taken down immediately after the conversation started about Hannah wanting the house to rent.
What Should I Do If I Am a Victim of Rental Scams?
In Hannah’s case, I encouraged her to call USPS and see if they can intercept the envelope with the money order.
Call Law Enforcement
Always contact your local law enforcement if you’ve been scammed. The information given to the police may be enough to help them apprehend the scammer and recover your money.
Report it to the FBI
Report it to the FBI online complaint division. Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center
Report it to the FTC
Many people aren’t aware that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal consumer protection agency, accepts rental scam complaints. Call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant. FTC's Online Complaint Assistant
Always Work with a Reputable Real Estate Agent
Hannah is one of many phone calls I have gotten about a listing being advertised illegally. Her story prompted me to write this blog and make as many people aware of rental scams as I can. I am currently helping her find a place to live for the two months she needs housing. I would never leave a person in a lurch knowing I could do something to help. I’ll leave the authorities to do their job of getting her money back, and I will make sure she has a roof over her head. It’s the Liz Wood Realty way of doing things.