Finding a rental from online sources can be overwhelming especially if you are determining if an ad is a scam or not. As a San Diego property management company our ads are scammed and reposted with false information on a weekly basis. Below are some tips on how to avoid online rental scams.
1. If something seems like it’s too good to be true, it probably is. For example, if you see an ad on Craigslist for a 3 bedroom/ 2 bath home for rent in San Diego for $700 / mo., a good measure to see what a property should rent for would be to check on Zillow for their rent Zestimate. The website rentBits has a rental rates tool that currently offers rental rates for over 4,000 cities in the US.
2. Make sure the address listed is legitimate and if no address is provided beware. On the Craigslist ad, locate the map on the right and the address should be below it. If it’s not, beware.
3. Be skeptical if you receive an email requesting personal information such as, social security number, bank account information, first and last months’ rent to hold the property, or to click on a link to give personal information. If a ‘landlord’ wants you to go to a site and get your free credit check, don’t. It’s likely they are harvesting your identity and Social Security number. Only disclose sensitive information on a written application after you have seen the property.
4. Emails that include Sir/Madam, typos, misspellings, IN ALL CAPS, from out of the country, a story of financial hardship have a high probability of being a scam.
5. If the landlord/property manager does not have the keys or access to the home watch out. If the listing is legitimate they will always have access to the home.
6. Never rent sight unseen. If you are unable to make a showing or you live out of town, send someone you know to look at the property.
7. Do not wire money. “If a landlord requests that you wire funds through Western Union or MoneyGram, do not wire the funds to anyone you have not met personally or have trustworthy information from,” says Efrat Cohen of Global Intelligence Consultants, Inc.
8. A property manager or broker listing a home for lease must provide their CA real estate license number on any marketing/advertising material. If the number is not present that is a violation of The CA Bureau of Real Estate regulations.
9. Craigslist; there’s no screening process for Craigslist posts. Just because you see something published online doesn’t mean it’s valid. To avoid potential scams start your rental search on a professional listing service such as Apartments.com, ForRent.com, REALTOR.com Rentals, RentPath.com, OnRadPad.com or Zillow.com.
10. Lastly, request a signed contract and get everything in writing.
If you fall victim to a scam, either as a renter or property owner, please report the incident to the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud hotline at 619-531-3552. Also contact the police, your bank, and credit bureaus and report that you have fallen victim to an online rental scam.
If you have any questions regarding rental scams please do not hesitate to give our office a call at 619-683-9274.