Beware of Internet scams involving rental properties where the landlord requires payment using Western Union, money gram, wire transfers or a landlord who is out of the country or cannot meet you in person. Also be aware of scams where the tenant sends the landlord a certified cashier's check for an amount greater than needed and asks the landlord to send the remaining balance back. Please read below for more detailed information on these scams.
Commonalities of a Rental Property Scam:
- Usually contains poor grammar and misspellings.
- Usually mentions God, cashiers check, money orders, wire transfer, Western Union, doctor, reverend, Nigeria, or the UK.
- Landlord wants you to wire money to them. Typically to a bank not located in the same city as the rental property.
- Landlord's email typically comes from a free email provider such as Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail.
- References another person or agent. Especially in the case of a wire transfer, the name on their bank account will differ from the person posing as the landlord.
- Tenant Scam - willing to send money without viewing your property.
- Landlord Scam - wants you to send money without viewing inside of property.
- Will not accept credit card payment.
- Can not show you the inside of the rental property before you send money.
- Name in the real estate county records does not match the name of the landlord claiming to own the property.
- Price is too good to be true.
- Does not have a phone number that you can call. In cases where the scammer does have a U.S. based phone number, be sure to check the area code to be sure it is located in or around the city of the rental property.
If you see a combination of the commonalities listed above or are skeptical because of a deal too good to be true, either find another landlord or management company to rent from who can show you the inside of the property or pay the landlord using an escrow account such as with Escrow.com. Another alternative is to use PayPal.com using your credit card. Never send money via a wire transfer, Money Gram, cashier's check or through Western Union unless you have rented from the landlord before and are certain the transaction is not a scam. If it turns out to be a scam, you can not get your money back. Instead, use Escrow.com or PayPal.com using your credit card. Credit cards offer fraud protection and will refund your money in the case of a scam. If you have a PayPal account and the landlord will not accept escrow, express your concerns with the landlord and tell the landlord you will make the first payment to them using PayPal.com. Just be sure to make payment using your credit card when using PayPal.com.