The Indiana Attorney General’s office recently warned consumers that scammers are using free classified websites to lure consumers looking for an apartment or landlords looking for tenants.
Consumers send emails to the “owner” of a house or apartment; the “owner” says the place is theirs if they wire money for an application fee or security deposit. Once the money is wired, they never hear from the “owner” again.
According to the Attorney General, the scammers hijack legitimate listings, change the contact information, and then post the modified ad on other sites, or they make up listings for places that are fictitious or aren’t for rent.
Property owners can also be victimized by this scam. They list a home or apartment for rent, a renter makes contact and send a check for a deposit. Later the “renter” wants to cancel and asks the property owner to wire the money back. After the owner wires the money to the “renter,” he or she finds out the check was fake.
The reason scammers prefer to use wire transfer companies like Western Union or MoneyGram is because they get the money quickly and it’s almost untraceable. Western Union has also issued a warning about the rental property scam.
Here are some tips for prospective tenants and property owners:1. Check out the apartment complex with your BBB. 2. Search for rental places on BBB Accredited websites 3. Research average rental rates for similar properties in your area. 4. If communicating by email, check for red flags like grammar and spelling errors. 5. If the renter isn’t interested in seeing the place before renting, you, as the owner, might be dealing with a scammer. 6. Be careful if a prospective tenant prefers to communicate by email only. 7. Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know and trust. 8. Avoid wire transfers in the payment process.
For more information you can trust, visit evansville.bbb.org.