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BBB Offers Tips for Avoiding Rental Property Scams

The BBB is warning people that there are unscrupulous individuals using Craigslist and other websites—posing as landlords or rental agents—to scam you.

Where do you turn if you’re in the market for a new place to live? A lot of people go online to find affordable rental properties. But before beginning your search, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is warning people that there are many unscrupulous individuals using Craigslist and other websites—posing as landlords or rental agents—to scam you or steal your personal and financial information. 

“The number of rental property scams online continues to grow,” says Dana Badgerow, President and CEO of the BBB. “The names of the fictitious “property owners” may change, but the methods are always the same: attractive-looking properties are offered at low or unbelievable prices; consumers wire money for security deposits or the first month’s rent and then quickly discover they’ve been defrauded.”

Ads like these are not limited to Craigslist, and the online thieves behind them—many of whom are based overseas—are out to swipe your money and your identity. 

The BBB provides the following tips for avoiding online rental property scams:

  • Be leery of deals that sound too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental at a very low price to lure in victims. Do some shopping around to find out how comparable listings are priced. If the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
  • Never wire money at the request of any prospective “landlord” via Western Union, Money Gram or any other wire service. 
  • Never send a scan of your passport or any other ID.  Online thieves will use your identity to scam others. Ask to see the landlord's ID—record all the information you can from it.
  • Do an Internet search of the person's name you're supposedly dealing with. You could add the words "fraud" or "scam" at the end of your search terms.
  • If the ad or posting is full of spelling errors and grammatical errors, be aware there’s a good chance you’re dealing with an overseas scammer.
  • Always ask to inspect the property—inside and out. In many rental scams, the “landlords” prefer to communicate via email, claiming to be out of the country and unable to show the rental property. This is usually a huge red flag.
  • Consider using a real estate agent or a rental agency to find the property that’s right for you. Check them out first at www.bbb.org.

The mission of the Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. Our hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact the BBB at www.bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Al Tate May 24, 2012 at 05:35 PM
The realtor didn't approve the loan. The realtor didn't sign the documents. The realtor didn't control or affect your spending habits, your job or how you saved or made money. There is plenty of research and information available. If you can't understand what you can or can't afford then it's your own fault. In the case where people lost jobs then it truly is unfortunate, but don't blame the realtor for the mess and I am in no way affiliated with a realtor or the industry. I agree, take some responsibility yourself!
Karine Ravetto May 24, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I am all about personal responsibility and live my life with the upmost PR. I personally don't know anybody that was foreclosed on, but we hear that the problem was created by Wall Street, mortgage brokers, mortgage bankers and many homeowners. But we never hear about the slimy real estate agents. The sale begins and ends with these agents and all they were concerned about was their commissions. So, for those of you that cannot think very clearly, let me sum this up - there is plenty of blame to go around and nobody ever suggested that the agents should share in the blame. And their ad "Protecting Home Ownership" - what a joke.
Clare Kennedy May 24, 2012 at 06:57 PM
In defense of both Brad and Karine: We're talking rather heatedly in terms of broad "types." No one in this thread knows anything about Karine's personal situation nor Brad's track record (neither of which is the topic at hand, I may add). Let's keep it civil, eh?
Susan May 24, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Slandering an entire profession (and picking on one who only tries to be helpful) because you don't like how they make their money is unfortunate, unfair, and unnecessary. I would suggest you read a little bit more about what happened in 2008 (and the years preceding) before you go blaming people who had very little to do with the crash. Thanks Dan and Brad for the tips.
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