Several common scams involving “renting” homes

Energy efficiency postcard front“Renting” Empty Houses

In this one, enterprising con artists will look for homes that will be abandoned for an extended period of time – vacation or work trip. They may claim to be the owner, or authorized to rent in their behalf. They often gain access to the home through illegal means and can show it to you.

Many people who run this type of scam will forge official looking documents for the renter to sign and will then collect rent until the scam is discovered – often when the real homeowners return and find strangers living in their house.

“Renting” Foreclosed on Houses

There are a few ways this one works. Sometimes is a con artist; other times it’s the homeowners. Facing foreclosure and feeling there are no other options, they’ll rent their home to an unsuspecting family and take the money to get their own home somewhere else. When the eviction date arrives, the new family will have no choice but to leave.

Another common foreclosure scam involves a fake “agent” selling a foreclosed home. The scammer will gain access illegally and will take a family on a tour of the home. When a buyer decides they are interested, the scammer takes a cash deposit and provides a fake phone number. Often they will have the buyer sign a fake property title deed and promise to meet buyer at the home on a specific date to give the buyer the keys.

When the buyer arrives on the agreed upon date, usually with moving trucks full of stuff, the fake agent is nowhere to be found and the phone number doesn’t work.

“Renting” Houses that are Legitimately For Sale

In this scam, a scammer will post a fake rental listing for a home that is actually for sale. This is most common scam that we see on sites that allow anyone to post listings – such as Craigslist or even some of the bigger real estate sites. (Note this is not possible on Realtor.com, which only takes listings from licensed real estate agents.)

They’ll offer the house at far less than it is worth, often saying the owner has to rent quickly because they are leaving the state or country for a job, school or something else. The scammerl take a cash deposit from any and all interested renters, have the renters sign fake rental agreements and will then disappear. They may also use information provided on the phony rental agreement to steal the potential renter’s identity.

“Renting” Unavailable Apartments to Out of Town Renters

For this one, the con artist will target out of town renters who are looking for a temporary home while visiting a city for work or vacation.
The scammer will list a real home or apartment as a temporary rental and then ask potential renters to wire money to cover the security deposit and rent. The renter then arrives at their destination and finds out the property they rented isn’t for rent and they have no place to stay.

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