Recently, another agent noticed a Lake Havasu home for rent on Craigslist that just so happened to be a property that a client of mine had for sale. The criminal who hijacked my client’s listing received at least two calls that we know of from potential renters. Luckily, we were able to red flag the ad and Craigslist took it down. The matter fell into the police’s hands. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough information to conduct a thorough investigation. As a renter, you must remain vigilant so as not to fall prey to nefarious individuals. Learn how to avoid a rental scam in Lake Havasu City by keeping an eye out for these red flags.
Warning Signs of a Rental Scam
Too Good to Be True
You’ve probably heard the phrase “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”. That applies to rental scams, too. Just like sale prices, rental prices continue to rise. We live in a hot market right now. If monthly rent advertised falls well below the norm for the rest of the market, question the validity of the ad.
Currently Out of the Country
Another rental scam thieves use is the “I’m currently out of the country” angle. They might refer you to their representative who has a fake set of keys. Or they send you photos of what the property looks like and tell you to wire money directly to them. Whatever the case may be, take a moment to think. Never send money overseas to an individual. If you can’t look at the property in person before you sign any paperwork, move along to another property. Use a reputable property management company to find regular or vacation rentals, especially for owners who don’t reside in the United States.
Send Money Now
Speaking of wiring money, another glaring rental scam red flag you should spot is when the owner wants you to give them money before you’ve even looked at the property. The only fee, if any, you may need to pay is a small application fee. If they demand your first month’s rent or a security deposit before they’ll even let you inside the property, just say no. The same holds true if they insist that you sign an agreement before showing you the property.
No Background Check
For credit-challenged renters, this might sound divine. Scammers agree. All they’re looking for is a quick payment and then they’re out of there. Legitimate landlords seek reliable tenants. Another common rental scam thieves try to pull is to request money up front for a security deposit or rent without any background check. Again, never provide money before seeing the property.
Vague Listing Info
No address? Watermarked photos? Not willing to provide utility information? This might be a rental scam. If the listing lacks specific details or the “owner” isn’t willing to provide any, it’s probably because they’ve never actually been to the property. Move along.
Reporting a Rental Scam
If you’ve been a victim of a rental scam or believe you might have dealt with a scammer, contact the FTC right away. This is a federal offense. Local police are oftentimes helpless in pursuing a proper investigation of the fraudster, especially if they live out of the area. Provide as much information as possible to help investigators with their inquiry.
The Havasu News-Herald published a report about three recent victims of rental scams on September 22nd. Partner that with my own client’s experience and you understand how important it is to remain cautious when responding to a rental ad. This isn’t just happening in Havasu either. Reports of rental scams have increased significantly over the past several years all over the country. So, stay alert. Report any questionable activity. And never pay money upfront before you’ve even looked at a rental property.