The volatile housing market brings out scammers like cockroaches in an unclean kitchen. Being a real estate investor, I have seen many unclean kitchens. The good news about unclean kitchens is that the mess is obvious. Rental scams, on the other hand, appear neat but can make a mess of your rental property business if you fall for them. Here is what to look for so that you can screen out rental scams.
One of my favorite places to post for rent ads is Craigslist. It’s a great free website where landlords and renters can meetup and potentially do business. Because of its popularity, Craigslist is also a magnet for internet scammers.
Rental scammers use two elements in their effort to unguard an unsuspecting landlord. The first element that they use to try an instill trust is what I call the church technique. They pretend to be a pastor or a reverend or a missionary or someone that is associated with a church. In most people’s mind, church equals good – as in a good psychological technique. See the email that I received below for an example:
I saw your apartment advertised on craigslist.com and am interested in renting it. I will be signing a one year lease for it and want to know the requirements for renting it. i.e
I will be doing a one year program on church service while in the states and.I will appreciate it if I hear from you in time as I will want to conclude the rental process before the end of Oct.
The second element of scammers use is greed. They know that most landlords require security deposits so they offer to send a check that is larger than the required deposit. They then ask the landlord to give the difference to their associate who they claim is an interior decorator or something similar.