If you are like me you have heard of the rental scams all over our city, state and yes the nation. There are many variations of the scam but for the purpose of this blog I am going to speak of one. The scammer finds a listing on the internet, these homes are easily accessible sue to the technology offered to consumers via the internet. The “Scammer” takes the listing information and posts the listing on craigslist.com. They do not include the address in the subject line merely the area and rental amount (typically the rental amount is grossly low). The consumer contacts the implied owner wanting information on the home and is sent something like this:
From: Jane Doe <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: $1200 / 4br – 4 Bedroom/ 2 bathroom Home (Any City, MO 63000)
To: “Mary Smith”
Date: Tuesday, August 3, 2010, 12:17 PM
Thanks for your interest in our house.
Firstly i will like to introduce myself, I am an Engineer by profession (retired) originally from Florida. I and my wife acquired the house recently and decided to rent out the house but due to our busy schedule,and the fact that we are retired we decided to go on a 3 years voluntary missionary trip in association with Christ embassy to Africa.
We are looking for a responsible people that can take good care of the house in our absence. Our house is still available for rent and the house rent includes all utilities.The house is not furnished because we have already moved our stuff to the storage before we left for the journey.
Please we want you to note that we are kind and honest people,we will want you to take absolute care of our house,we want you to keep it tidy all the time so that we will be glad to see it neat whenever we visit.
So if you are really interested in the house, we will want you to fill out the rent application form below.
The undersigned hereby makes an application to rent the following property: 123 Main Street Any City, MO 63000.
Anticipated move in date of ___________________at a monthly rent of $1200 and the term of tenancy will be renewed automatically every year or monthly.
Applicant (A) Full Name__________________________
Phone (_____) _____________________
Other Phone (_____) ________________________
Do you have a pet___________________________________
Do you have a car______________________________________
Driver’s License #________________________________
How many people will be living in the house___________________________
PREVIOUS RESIDENCE INFORMATION
1) Previous Address ______________________________________________________
City: ____________________________ State :______________ Zip:________________
Length of occupancy _____________________
Landlord’s Name: ______________________________________
Phone (_____) _______________________
Reason for leaving _______________________________________________________
Rent Payment $_______________
Looking forward to hear from you with all this details so that we can have it in our file for record purposes. We are waiting your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the house documents and the keys to you. NOTE:The keys and documents of our house are here with us in west Africa, please we are giving you the house based on trust.
You will only be able to drive by the house for now but you will not have access into the house until we have sent the keys and documents of the house to you, the requirement for getting the keys and documents of the house is the rent payment which is refundable should in case you finally gain entrance into the house after receiving the keys and documents and feel unsatisfied or uncomfortable with the interior,but i am giving you my word that you will love everything about this lovely house.
Please note that your rent starts counting from move in date so you need not to worry about making the deposit payment now and not moving in immediately because all you’re doing is securing the house in your favor in order not to loose it to other interested applicants.
DESCRIPTION: 4 Bedroom/ 2 bathroom Family Home in AAA Rated Pattonville School District. Lovingly maintained 1 Owner Home! Save $ w updated Major Systems!**Newer: Roof, Furnace & C/A**Thermal Tilt-In Windows**Siding** Garage Doors**Sliding Doors** Most of the Expensive upgrade/replacements are done! So much space in this adorable 8 room home with lots of walk in attic storage space and large closets!Exposed Hardwood Floors in all the bedrooms and hardwood under the carpeting in liv. rm and dining rm. This versatile floor plan w formal living room and dining room allows so many possibilities! Open the Kitchen to the Dining rm and Create a Kit/Brkfst Rm Combo. The Family Room would make great Hearth Room off the Kitchen while turning Living Room to Family Room. Or enjoy this great home just the way it is. You’ll love being able to watch the kids play on the patio from the kitchen window or Family room sliding glass door. Pets ok. The house is available now and the house rent includes all utilities.
You can contact us on 011 then 234-813-843-8217 or +234-813-843-8217.
Thanks and hope to hear from you soon.
Mr. John and wife Mrs Jane Doe.
Now what makes this a bit more disturbing is that this scammer actually used the name of the Real and Legal owner of the property, one would assume this was secured through public tax information.
What steps can you take? Number one report this! You can go to your state attorney general, the FBI Internet Crime Unit and our the location of the posting, in this instance Craigslist. For the record I made a complaint and flagged an ad such at this over 4 hours ago on craigslist and still the posting remains in place.
Real Estate Agents make your buyers and sellers aware of what is going on out there. No agent wants their seller client surprised by a knock on the door of someone who is thinking they have just rented the home.
Renters, be smart…. Contact a Real Estate Agent to assist you or do your homework before you send ANYONE money. This web site is a good source of information on how to protect yourself. www.rentalscams.org
How to Avoid being a victim:
- Only deal with LOCAL home owners or prospective landlords
- Be suspicious if someone wants you to wire money ANYWHERE
- Do not give out your personal information
- Know what the average rental rate is for what you are looking for, if it seems to good to be true it is!
- A landlord/Seller who is out of the country on a Mission trip should cause red flags to fly up EVERYWHERE
Here is another interesting article from Wichita on similar problems
Here are some places to report a rental scam
FTC Rental Scam Web Site
FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center
Also contact your local authority and state Attorney General