The Waynesboro Police Department has received a few reports of rental ads scams. The information provided below was taken from the Federal Trade Commission website regarding this type of activity. Please be aware of these scams and many more that are happening right now in our region and across the country.
Moving to a new city? Planning a vacation? When considering issues like the size, cost, and location of the rental, also consider this: this rental listing could be a scam. Scammers often advertise rentals that don’t exist or are unavailable to trick people into sending money before they find out the truth.
How rental scams work
Scammers know that finding the right apartment or vacation rental can be hard work, and that it’s hard to pass up a great deal. They are known to play on some vacation rental websites and bulletin boards. Takeaway: When looking for a rental, this is a tenant warning – tenant beware.
Some scammers hijack a real estate rental or real estate ad by changing the email address or other contact information and placing the edited ad on another site. The edited ad can even use the name of the person who posted the original ad. In other cases, crooks have hijacked the email accounts of real estate owners on reputable vacation rental websites.
Other scam artists make lists of places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist, and try to lure you in with the promise of low rent or great amenities. Their goal is to get your money before you know it.
Signs of a scam
Getting notified when you are looking for a rental is worth the effort. Here are some signs that you may be dealing with a scam:
They tell you to wire money
This is the surest sign of a scam. There is never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, administration fees, first month’s rent, or vacation rental fees. This is true even if they send you a contract first. Transferring money is like sending money: once you send it, you have no way of getting it back.
They want a security deposit or the first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease
It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you cannot visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is for rent and that is what was advertised. In addition to scheduling a meeting, search the owner and the list. If you find the same ad under a different name, that’s a clue that it may be a scam.
They say they are out of the country
But they have a plan to put the keys in your hands. This could be a lawyer or an “agent” working on their behalf. Some crooks even create fake keys. Don’t send them money overseas. If you can’t meet in person, view the apartment, or sign a lease before paying, keep looking. What if the rental itself is abroad? Paying with a credit card or through a reputable vacation rental website with its own payment system are your safest bets.
How to report scams
If you are the target of a rental scam, report it to your local law enforcement agency and the FTC. Also contact the website where the ad was posted.