One of the strategies of rental scammers is to price the ‘fake’ rental below the average rental rate in a specific market. This allows the scammers to receive as many emails or inquiries as possible.
One way to see if a rental is too good to be true is to look at average rental rates for like properties within that area. rentBits has a rental rates tool that currently offers rental rates for over 4,000 cities in the US.
For example, if you see an ad on Craigslist for a two bedroom home for rent in Phoenix for $400 / mo. You can go to rentBits.com and see that the average rental rates in phoenix are $786. For a 2 bedroom home in Phoenix, the current rental rate is $787 / Mo.
Our mission is to educate renters, property managers, agents and owners on the many different types of rental scams that are on the internet today.
The only way to defeat scammers is by eliminating their economic incentives to continue scamming. We feel, through education, we can accomplish this goal.
Tags: rental scam tips
There are commonalities with all rental scam emails. Below are some tips when dissecting a rental scam email.
- Does the email start out with Sir / Madam?
- Are there misspellings in the email?
- Are there character mistakes in the email? i.e Hello,my nameis Susie.
- Is there excessive capitalization?
- Does the email reference God, UK, Cashiers Check, Doctor, Nigeria, Reverend, etc.
- Is the email from a free email provider. i.e gmail, yahoo, aol, hotmail.
- Does the email refer to another person or agent?
- Does the email reference wanting to move in site unseen?
If the email has a majority of these commonalities, then the chances are very good it is a scammer. If you are unsure, it is best to not reply to the email.
Originally from the rentBits.com blog.
In 2007, total internet fraud was around $240 million in the US.
Over the last year or so, the rental industry has seen a dramatic rise in rental scams and rental scam complaints.
At Rent Marketer and Apartment Marketer, we do everything in our power to ensure rental scams don’t get sent to our clients or renters. It is virtually impossible to stop every single scam email from getting through our system, but for those that do, we hope through education we will be able to hit the scammers where it hurts the most, through economics.
If we can eliminate the economic incentives for scammers, we can eliminate their behavior completely. If we can educate renters, property managers, owners, and agents on the various rental scams, over time, scammers will no longer have an economic incentive to scam.
Both Rent Marketer and Apartment Marketer use a variety of tools to help educate consumers and decrease the chances of a scammer contacting a client or renter.
Here is what we do:
- Every Phone Number is Masked with a free Toll Free number
- One thing you don’t want is to have your cell phone or house number out there for all to see. It is very easy to to do a reverse phone lookup and find your name, address, and any other information these scammers can use against you.
- Known Scammer emails and Phone Numbers are Filtered
- Being proactive, (stopping scam emails from reaching our clients) and Reactive (Immediately stopping scammer email and phone numbers from reaching any further clients)
- Using other proprietary filtering technology
- Educational Tools
- Screening Ads
- Some scammers try to post ads and do a “Property Owner Scam“
- We Screen ads using a variety of techniques
There is more we as an industry can do to help in the destruction of the rental scammer business model. By working together, we can do much more than working alone.
Some thoughts on how we can work together (I will write more about this in another post). Some suggestions may not work but this is meant to start a conversation:
- Central Rental Scammer Database
- All rental and classifieds sites could connect to it in real time to post or receive data on known rental scammers.
- Help from ISPs and Email providers like Yahoo, AOL, Gmail, etc
- Most free email providers are automatically reading the content of the email in order to serve relevant ads. Gmail for example does this and notifies users of known phishing emails. Why couldn’t Google do this with renter scammers? Most scam emails have very similar content.
- Government Agency Help
- Combined Rental and Classified Help
- What about a cookie being placed on known scammer browsers? If that scammer tries to go to another participating rental or classified site they are flagged.
What you some of your ideas?
We received a letter from a reader notifying us of a scammer who said the have a sponsor. This is how the scam works.
- Scammer contacts home owner
- Scammer says they will be living in the states for 2 years and that a large company is sponsoring them
- Scammer send Fake Cashiers check for a large sum of money.
- Scammer asks if home owner can send the remaining money to their sponsor via a wire
- Fake cashiers check is not noticed as fake and the home owner wires remaing funds to scammer
The reader contacted this individual and below is the conversation.
Subject: Re: $1295 / 3br – Adorable Single Family Home (Williamstown) (map)
Date: Friday, 19 September, 2008, 2:42 PM
From: natal blige <email@example.com>
I really appreciate your response and details provided, my sponsors (Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals) have agreed on the monthly fees to be paid for the next two years on my behalf. Therefore, they agreed to pay up front the amount of ($3238 PAYMENT FOR THE FIRST MONTH RENT PLUS DEPOSIT STARTING FROM MY MOVING IN DATE WHICH WILL BE ON THE 4TH OF OCTOBER); also since I will be staying for two years, the company has agreed to pay in a monthly installation. Furthermore, I would like you to know a US Cashier che que will be issued to you in an excess amount by my sponsors for the first month rent, security deposit and my travelling expenses; the excess amount will be sent to me immediately as soon as you receive payment from my sponsors.
However, the information below is required from you by my sponsors to have payment sent to you immediately in order for you to hold down this property until I arrive;
— On Tue, 16/9/08, wrote:
Subject: Re: $1295 / 3br – Adorable Single Family Home (Williamstown) (map)
Date: Tuesday, 16 September, 2008, 3:03 PM
From: natal blige <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Our good friends at ForRentByOwner.com has given 7 Warning Signs of Possible Fraud.
- Unable to perform a credit check on a prospective tenant, i.e., wrong or no social security number.
- Emails are overly polite, very poorly written or express excessive eagerness to rent without having inspected the property.
- Tenant does not send funds as promised or delays providing requested information.
- Email is sent from another country or the tenant claims to live in one country but email is sent from another with inadequate explanation.
- Beware of comments such as, “I need to hear from you today”, “I am arriving next week and need to establish residency” or any indication of extreme urgency early in your communications.
- Tenant asks you not to cash a rent or security deposit check, or asks you to purchase items or contract services on his behalf.
- Finally, never provide your bank account number, bank routing number or other financial or personal information.
The Scammers are using the WHO (World Health Organization) to scam out renters. Read more on this scam and how it plays on emotions here.
Below is the email from the scammer,
Good hearing from you am Dr Eric Neville,the Leaders of (WHO) world health organisation appointed by the World Health Assembly on 9 November 2006..
We own the House and also want you to know that it was due to our transfer that makes me and my family to leave the property and was post on craigslist.com to give it out for rent. We are looking for a reputable person that can take very good care of it, as we are not after the money for the rent but want it to be clean at the time and the person that will rent it to take it as if it were its own.
We are a Multi-Million Organisation authorized by the UNICEF AND UNITED NATION HEALTH GROUPS. Our work is to travel around the world, we supply food, drugs, and shelter to the poor,our organisation is known worldwide due to our good work and faith. we want to know if you also have love for the sick and poor around the world.We are in conjuction with Susan Collins the Senator of United state of America.
So right now we are in West Africa. with the keys and the document of the House. We try to look for an agent that we can give the keys and documents before we left but could not see any trusted and responsible agent and the only person that we trust was dead last year on plane crash,so we have nobody that can give the keys and documents before we left and we are as well don’t want our house to be used anyhow in our absent that is why we took it along with us. You can drive by to view it from outside at 11761 Via Vera Cruz Ct Las Vegas, NV 89138.
So get back to us on how you could take care of our house or perhaps experience you have in renting home.please let us know If you are staying for a long period of time, We are okay with one month deposit payment of ($1,250) including the security deposit,looking forward to hear from you.Our rental form has been attached to you that you will have to fill to qualify for this rent.
Looking forward to hear from you with all the application details so that i can have it in my file incase of issuing the receipt for you and contacting you.
Await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how the keys and documents would be ship to you via Fedex company.
Thanks Remain Bless
Scammers will try to make the victim feel as comfortable as possible. Here is one way they do it.
- Scammer posts rental ad on a large free classifieds site and makes rental price extremely low
- The victim finds the ad and wants to rent the property
- Communication between the scammer and victim begins
- Scammer tells victim he is out of the country on business
- To ensure the victim has funds. the scammer asks the victim to wire money ($2,000) to any of the victims friends. This is suppose to make the victim feel better because they are wiring it to their own friend
- The scammer asks to see the receipt that funds have been transfered to the victims friend through MoneyGram
- With Money orders, the recipient can pick up the funds anywhere in the world. With the information on the receipt, the scammer picks up the money.
There are many more houses for rent scams than there are apartment for rent scams. The major reason for this is most apartments are run by large REITs and property managers. If you are an owner of a rental house and are renting out your property by owner here are some tips to help stop the possibility of having scammers repost your rental property on Craigslist or other sites.
- For photos, use a watermark. Water marked photos have a lower probability of being copied.
- Don’t share your email address within your ad
- Don’t use your personal phone number in ad, use a service that uses a toll free number instead
- Periodically check craigslist and other sites to see if your ad has been copied
For rental scam questions, you can now ask them on the rentbits.com In The Know section. The community will help answer rental scam questions in the effort to help educate the public on the new scams entering the market.
From the MyNewPlace blog:
Local alleged lump of human garbage Rachael Marie Smith has been arrested for using Craigslist to scam potential renters out of their deposits. Ms. Smith advertised her apartment on Craigslist, accepted deposits from several renters and then postponed their move in date, claiming that her mother was sick with cancer.
The scam was uncovered when one woman who signed a lease with Ms. Smith but could then not get in touch with her new’ landlord.’ She mentioned her troubles to a coworker, who, lo and behold, was having the same difficulty with the same woman and had heard the same sob story. The two women hired a lawyer, who also had clients complaining of the same scam and the police were called.
Ms. Smith is accused of stealing a total of $20,000 from at least four renters. Police also think that others may have fallen prey to the hoax and encourage anyone who has been defrauded to call Inspector John Monroe at 415.553.1936.
We collect a lot of data on rental scams and we find there are correlations between rental scams and large cities. A likely explanation of this is because of the substantial amount more renters and traffic that are in these larger cities. For scammers, it is a numbers game. The more renters they can get to respond to the ad, the higher their chances of completing the scam.
Below is a list of the top cities with the highest level of scam activity.
Finding cheap apartments for rent is a major priority for many renters in these hard economic times. Unfortunately, scammers are preying on these types of searchers.
Some tips to ensure you are not being scammed:
1) Is the price to good to be true? Use Rental Rate tools to help.
2) Are they just communicating with you via email? Red flag if they don’t want to talk to you on the phone.
3) Are they asking for a cashiers check? Don’t pay via cashiers check.
4) Have you seen the place and walked around with the Property Manager or owner.