Friday, March 2, 2012

Consumer Scams and Frauds: House Rentals

During this section, we’ll try to identify one of the many different scams going on all across the country and offer advice on how not to become a victim of it.

The scam this week began as the result of a Craigslist ad (surprise) posted by a “David Smith”. The advertisement was for the rental of a house in the city of Overland Park. The supposed landlord was asking for $600 a month for rent and a $500 deposit.

This all sounded great to the inquiring renter, so they responded to the ad and asked for more information. “David Smith” told the renter to wire the $500 deposit to an address in Nigeria. When asked why he was in Nigeria, he basically made up some bogus story.

The house in question was actually empty and was for sale at the time. The would-be renter did some checking on his own and found the home was owned by another couple and not by “David Smith”. Luckily, no money was ever sent to the scammer but, sadly, that isn’t always the case.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises renters to be wary of the following red flags.

• The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.

• The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via e-mail. Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work - don’t believe it.

• The landlord requires a substantial deposit before handing over the keys or even showing the home. Don’t pay any money before inspecting the home, inside and out.

• The landlord asks the renter to wire money through wire transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram. Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve and once the scammers have picked it up; there is little recourse—if any—for getting your money back.