Today we are talking about the dangers of online advertising scams, which unfortunately are happening in a number of places. We have seen them on Craigslist, Trulia and Zillow. These online methods for advertising your rental property are wonderful, but they can have problems if you aren’t careful.
The advertising scammer will typically duplicate your ad and photos. They make it look very professional and it’s usually believable as a real ad for a rental property. The scammer will simply change the contact information for the ad. The biggest thing that you’ll notice about these scams is that the property is listed for way under market. That low price draws a lot of interest and they will get a lot of calls.
There will be every reason in the world for why you cannot meet the contact person or see the property. Excuses might be that they have fired the agent who refuses to list the property at such a low price or the keys are out of the area. The scammer will tell you to send cash for keys, and that’s how people get victimized in these scams.
I have personally been involved with this type of scam. There was a property I listed in Pittsburgh, California that I was showing regularly. One day, I arrived there with a family who wanted to see the property and I noticed the lockbox had been removed. When I went into the property, there was someone there. I asked who she was and she said she lived there. It turned out a family had been encouraged by the low price of this home and they fell for the bait. These people had sent two thousand dollars via Western Union to an address in Virginia and they had moved into the house. We successfully got them to move out but this was a terrible situation because this family had five children and no place to go. It was unfortunate for everyone involved.
To avoid these scams, we recommend you confirm the rental amount and visit the property frequently. In my case, it had only been a few days since the last showing, so these things can happen overnight. If you see an ad and you know it’s a scam, try to flag it. People are willing to help you because they don’t want to be a victim of these scams.
We believe that the old adage holds: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. So beware.
If you have any questions about these scams and how to avoid them, please contact us at PURE Property Management, and we’d be happy to help you.