Renters, landlords: scams to watch out for
So you're a renter and you've found an ad for a place with a price that's fabulously low. Or you're trying to rent out your home and just got an email from a prospective tenant willing to send you a deposit sight unseen.
A word to the wise: Scammers have infiltrated the rental market. It's a slightly more sophisticated effort than the "help me get my money out of a bank account and I'll pay you millions" emails from Nigeria.
RentalScams.org has examples of questionable emails from supposed renters and landlords. The typical scammer-renter sends a cashier's check that's too high, says "whoops" and asks you to refund the difference -- and after you do, you find out that the original check was a fake. The typical scammer-landlord asks you to send a deposit and promises to send you the keys -- but never does.
Here's what the site says to watch out for in emails.
The major red flags of any scam are:
* Outside of the US
* Wanting Payments – Cashiers Check, FEDEX, etc
* Unable to personally show you the property
* Is traveling on business and will just send you the keys
Has anyone run into a scam like this?
A colleague once showed me emails from someone claiming to want to buy his house, and it had all the hallmarks. "Send me your bank account information to faciliate the transaction," etc. So home sellers: Keep these warnings in mind, too.
Update: Wonk reader Matt Gonter says he sees ads for suspiciously cheap Baltimore apartments -- like a newly renovated two-bedroom, two-bath, heated two-car-garage condo for $600 a month -- all the time on Craigslist.