BBB: Watch out for rental scams

Posted at 10:02 AM, Mar 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-21 12:02:13-04
If you are planning on moving this spring, be aware of rental scams, especially on Craigslist. A new report from New York University shows how prevalent rental scams are.
"NYU researchers report Craigslist fails to identify more than half of rental scam listings. Suspicious posts linger for as long as 20 hours before being taken down. Researchers reviewed more than 2 million for rent posts and found 29,000 fake listings in 20 major cities," said the Better Business Bureau's Dale Dixon.
Dixon says researchers found three key types of scams.
  • Fake posts instructing a would-be tenant to purchase a credit report: The scammer gets a commission from the credit reporting site, even though there is no property for rent.
  • Duplicate rental listings from other sites: Scammers post the same listing on Craigslist at a lower price. Prospective renters pay a deposit via wire transfer.
  • "Realtor service” companies: Scam targets are asked to pay fees to access listings of pre-foreclosure rentals or rent-to-own properties. In the majority of cases, the companies leading the scams have no connection to the properties listed.

If you are using Craigslist to search for rentals, Dixon says never wire money or use a prepaid debit card to pay a deposit before you've seen the property in person. If you can't visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go check it out.

Watch out for listings that seem too affordable compared to other rentals in the area. Dixon says scammers try to catch your attention by offering low rent. And search for the listing online. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that's a red flag.

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