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Homes for Rent or Are They?

Homes for Rent or Are They? - The Beacon


By: Amanda

Homes for Rent or Are They?

Are you searching the newspaper or online classifieds hoping to find your next rental?  Whether it is a home or apartment, future renters need to be on the lookout for fraudulent activity.  Realtors appear to be indicating that these types of schemes are on the increase, especially after natural disasters like the tornados in Oklahoma. In fact, the Oklahoma Attorney General even issued a consumer alert on this type of activity occurring in their area.

According to the FTC, there appear to be two types of schemes.  In the first type, a schemer “hijacks a real rental or real estate listing by changing the email address or other contact information, and placing the modified ad on another site. The altered ad may even use the name of the person who posted the original ad.”  In the second type, a schemer “makes up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist, and try to lure you in with the promise of low rent, or great amenities.”  In either of these schemes, the goal is to trick you into paying some money up-front for the property, usually asking for it to be wire transferred.

You can avoid these schemes by keeping the following tips in mind from your BBB and the FTC:

Never wire money or send a check to someone you’ve never met for an apartment or house you’ve never seen.  The FTC says: “If you can’t meet the landlord in person because she’s living or traveling out of the country – and if you can’t see the actual apartment before you pay application fees, a security deposit, or sign a lease – keep looking.”  Also, keep in mind that wired money is just like sending cash.  Once the money has been picked up at its destination, it is gone.

Don’t rush. If you feel like you are being pressured or there appears to be some kind of immediate action is being demanded of you, walk away.  Often times, this is a red flag.

Watch out for offers that appear too good to be true. If the rental price is well below market value for the house and the amenities it provides, be careful. This may be away for the schemer to draw lots of attention for the listing and make lots of money from unsuspecting consumers.

If you are the renter placing an ad for a tenant, watch out for fake check schemes.  Someone may say they have a deposit for you but the check is for more than the amount you requested.  They will then ask you to wire the difference to them once you’ve deposited the check. Often, the check is a fake.  This may take the bank some time to figure out, but once they do, your money is gone and you may end up owing the bank fees.

If you are a victim of one of these schemes, you may file a complaint with the FTC and your BBB.

For more information you can trust, visit

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Amanda is the Director of Bureau Affairs and is a regular contributor to the consumer education blog. She is one of our go-to colleagues for answering complex consumer inquires. Amanda also manages our charity reporting program.