Reports are surfacing once again relative to rental housing scams. Awhile back GSREIN alerted its members that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had issued a consumer alert affecting real estate listings in a rental housing scam.
The scam involves Criminals searching Web sites that list homes for sale. They take the information in those ads – lock, stock and barrel – and post it, with their own e-mail address, in an ad on other real estate sites (without the sites consent or knowledge) under the housing rentals category. Reported sites include Craigslist and Trulia.
Big Tipoff: The houses are almost always listed at below market rental rates.
Potential renters might then be asked to fill out credit applications asking for personal information like credit history, social security numbers, birthdates, and work history. Criminals can use this information to commit identity fraud and steal money from their victims.
If it sounds too good to be true, check it out.
Before you give anyone your personal information, drive to the address. Is there is a Realtors ‘For Sale’ sign on the lawn? Contact the agent to inquire if the house is also for rent.
Tips to help sidestep would-be scammers:
Never Give Out Financial or Personal Information – bank account, social security number, birth date, eBay/PayPal info, etc., until you know who you are doing business with.
Do Not Submit to Credit Checks or Background Checks for housing until you have met the Landlord or Agent in person.
Do Not Rent Housing Without Seeing The Interior, Or Purchase Expensive Items Sight Unseen – in all likelihood that housing unit is not actually for rent and that cheap item does not exist.
Never Wire Funds Via Western Union, Moneygram Or Any Other Wire Service
Fake Cashier Checks & Money Orders Are Common, And Banks Will Cash Them And Then Hold You Responsible
Avoid Deals Involving Shipping or Escrow Services – and know that only a scammer will “Guarantee” your transaction.
If you are a Realtor, you may wish to consider signing up for Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts) for each listing in order to get an email anytime that address is posted on a Website.
Who should I notify about fraud or scam attempts?
Report these cases to the Attorney General’s Office. Call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-351-4889 or click the Consumer Complaint Form below to file electronically: Consumer Complaint Form (electronic)
Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Section P.O. Box 94005 Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9005 http://www.ag.state.la.us/
If you suspect that a Craigslist post may be part of a scam, submit details to Craigslist send us the details .
If you suspect that a Trulia post may be part of a scam, submit details to Trulia Legal Department, email@example.com contact (415) 648-4358.
If you are defrauded by someone you’ve met in person, contact your local police department.