Although the Internet has made it easier to find a property to rent, it has also made it far easier for those intent on scamming you out of your money to make a living. While this has been going on for some time, a recent documentary highlighted just how far con artists are willing to go and it appears that the rental property market is an easy target. Essentially, the scam targets those who are looking to rent. The victims view the property and then hand over the deposit. This is standard practice in any rental deal, but unfortunately in these cases, the person who is taking the money is either not the actual homeowner or is not a registered letting agent.
The same property is leased out numerous times and a deposit secured on each occasion. The problem is of course, is that the person purportedly renting out the property does so without the consent or knowledge of the owner. Needless to say, the scamster disappears with all the money and the prospective tenant is left high and dry, and out of pocket.
Remember, con artists are smooth characters and will have an answer for everything. Don’t be fooled and do not deposit any money into anyone’s bank account until you are absolutely sure that the person claiming to own or have permission to rent out a property actually has the home owner’s consent to do so.
Fraud is on the rise and it is important to remember that these people are not stupid. In fact, they are very clever and are seemingly always one step ahead of the law. There are ways, however, that prospective tenants can protect themselves.
Tenant screening scams are everywhere. If you don’t believe that applicants will come to your table looking to scam their way into a home or apartment that they have no intention of treating reasonably. These are some of the scams that trick landlords into accepting less than stellar tenants.
The False Credit Report
It can seem like a nice gesture - the tenant brings their application, a tidy little pile of supporting paperwork, and a copy of their credit report. You just saved yourself the credit report fee! Right? Definitely NOT!
Here’s the deal: this is the era of technology. Any slacker with a refurbished computer and a free afternoon can whip out a pirated copy of Photoshop and edit literally any document they have. If it gets a roof over their head, why wouldn’t they? After all, it only takes one edit and you can give the faked document to dozens or hundreds of landlords - it just takes one mistake (or an uninformed landlord) to get into a home knowing you can’t pay for it.
The fabricated proof of residence and employment
It’s up to you as the landlord to research these details - does that workplace even exist? When you attempt to call their previous landlord, ask for someone fictional. If they’re faking, they’ll generally tell you who they really are when asked if they’re a nonexistent business - but if you ask them, “Are you the landlord at Byron’s Apartments,” well, of course they’re going to say yes. They’re in on the scam, after all.
Cash up front for an immediate move-In
It can be extremely easy to say “yes” to someone who offers you six months’ rent up front for the opportunity to move in tomorrow - after all, if they have that kind of money, they’re going to keep having that kind of money, right? Yeah, right! Any attempt on the part of a tenant to convince you to skip the screening process should result in your immediate and instinctive slamming of the door in their face. It’s far too easy for a criminal, be they crook or con man, to come into a one-time pile of money and have zero plans for making more.
The Six Months’ Advance Sublet
This is a brutal scam because the tenant is the victim just as much as you are. You’ll be advertising a property, find a seemingly-perfect tenant, and get them moved in. The first month’s rent will come in on time, no problems - but the second or third month will be late. You’ll head over to knock on their door and encounter someone completely different living there. When you ask for the tenant by name, the person living there will have no idea what you’re talking about and explain that they already paid the first six months’ rent to the landlord, who is not you. Essentially, you took in a scammer who turned around and advertised your property, filled the “vacancy” with a commitment of six months’ rent up front, and then vanished into the sunset, leaving you with a tenant you haven’t screened and who insists that they can’t afford to pay rent a second time. Again, rigorous examination of every detail of the application and supporting paperwork, expecting a scammer, is the only way to catch this before it begins. In when it comes to avoiding tenant screening scams, be prepared to put in ALL the work, every tenant, every time; or easier yet, utilise the services of a reputable, registered Real Estate Agency like Harcourts Capital.
So whether you’re a Landlord or a Tenant, always be wary and investigate as much as possible, it is far better to be safe than sorry. Ask many questions and make sure that you are 100% satisfied with all of the answers you have received. Remember that a fraudster will have done all of his research and his aim is to sound as genuine as he possibly can – this is why so many people fall prey to these sorts of scams.