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Beware of House Rental Scams

Jakub Jirsák – ThinkStock

Here’s the scenario – you’re looking for a summer rental, so you do what a lot of us do these days – you start poking around the internet. You find a great looking house in the perfect area, and the rent looks to be more than reasonable. You contact the landlord, put down a deposit, and then never hear from them again. Unfortunately, it’s a story that’s getting more and more common these days.

These stories first came to my attention when a friend of a co-worker, who is looking to relocate from Florida to New Jersey, reached out to us. He saw a great listing for a home rental and reached out to the alleged landlord.

The part that immediately set up his scam radar – when he saw the exact same home listed for sale on a different real estate site.

He ended up exchanging messages with the “landlord”, who’s answers to questions were sketchy at best. The alleged entrepreneur also sent out an “application” that was about a generic as you can get, and requested a deposit.

This was all less than 24 hours ago. When I went to find the rental ad and reach out to the supposed leaser myself, the ad had disappeared. I attempted to contact the number from the ad, and got an Internet voicemail box.

Unfortunately, this is not a unique story. Rental scams are not uncommon these days, and the FTC even has a page dedicated to rental scams.

The best way to avoid a scam – work through a licensed realtor. If a listing looks too good to be true (the fake rental ad that I was alerted to listed a $575,000 home for only $1,200 a month), it probably is.

Have you seen any sketchy listings lately? Tell us about your experiences.

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