Tips for Avoiding Rental Scams

By the Missoula Organization of REALTORS

In the age if internet, consumers are able to access outrageous amounts of data, compare prices, and even find a place to live using just their mobile device.  However, with those tools comes additional risk and with the advent of sites like Craigslist, scammers across the world now can try to separate you from your money.  A trend that has developed in the past several years is for these scammers, most often residing overseas, to skim rental property ads or vacant homes for sale and list them for rent at unbeatable prices.

Consumers, finding the deal of a lifetime, will often ignore the voice in their heads reminding them to be cautious and end up being taken advantage of.  So how do you avoid these scams?

Are you trying to rent property or find a roommate?

If you answer yes to any of these questions after receiving an email from your post, be on alert.  They’re common practices for scammers.  It’s often best if you’re suspicious to not even reply.

  • Does the email start out with Sir / Madam?
  • Are there misspellings and grammatical errors in the email?
  • Is there excessive capitalization?
  • Does the email reference God, UK, Cashiers Check, Doctor, Nigeria, Reverend, etc.
  • Does the email refer to another person or agent?
  • Does the email reference wanting to move in sight unseen?
  • Are you looking for a place to live?

Once again, if you answer yes to any of these questions, be on alert for a scam.

  • Is the property listed online twice, with one for a much lower price?
  • Is the spelling and grammar of the post poor?
  • Can they not meet you in person?
  • Are they claiming to be a business man, missionary, etc. who is out of the country?
  • Is the price far below the other comparable properties?
  • Are they asking you to send a cashier’s check or wire money?
  • Are they offering to send you the keys?
  • Is property being offered for rent also listed for sale?
  • Do you see the property listed under a property management company as well?

Other Tips:

  • Information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, social security numbers and other similar numbers should not be given out unless you are positive who will be receiving the information and that it is being transmitted over a secure server. This is important because this information can be used for identity theft or other fraudulent purposes.
  • Many fraudulent ads on sites are simply copied & pasted from elsewhere (eBay). By copying part of the ad and searching through Google you can quickly check to see if the post is one of them.

Using a reputable Property Manager or Real Estate Agent is often a good way to ensure that your time and money is protected.  If you see the property listed with a management company or for sale with an agent, contact those individuals to ensure the information you have been provided is correct.

The most important tip I can offer however is to follow your gut.  Always remember that, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Diane Beck
2011 Missoula Organization of REALTORS® President

Like this blog by MOR President, Diane Beck?  Chances are you’ll also like her blogs on: Protecting your greatest investment or Putting down roots in Missoula.  Or check out our entire Housing section for the 411 on renting, buying, and neighborhoods.  You’ll also want to check out our Real Estate Agent Listings page.

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Diane Beck has been selling real estate in Missoula for over 20 years.  Her knowledge, experience and commitment to the community has placed her in the forefront of the real estate market.  Diane is serving the Missoula Organization of REALTORS® as their 2011 President and she continues to strive for the best interests of their members, community and her clients.