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Scam Central

BBB cautions: Online rental scams target renters and landlords

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July 20, 2011 | 1,907 views | 2 comments

BBB cautions consumers when using online websites to find a rental home

San Antonio, Texas -- Within seconds of searching the Internet, potential home renters can find all the information they need about a possible new home, such as pictures, prices and virtual tours. However, such tools give scammers the perfect opportunity to take advantage of consumers. Better Business Bureau warns renters to be on the lookout for phony ads on Craigslist and other Internet services aimed at stealing money.

Consumers typically fall victim to these scams after responding to an online classified for a rental property. Victims say they are asked by the supposed landlord to wire money for the deposit and first month’s rent in order to receive the keys to the rental home. When asked if the renters can view the property prior to wiring money, the landlords claim to be out of the country and unable to show the house.

As a result of this scam, many shocked homeowners have received knocks at their doors from people who were planning to move into their new rental home. Often, the actual homeowners have their house up for sale -- not rent -- and have pictures posted online that the scammers steal for their phony listings.

BBB warns consumers of the following red flags:

ĚThe deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced. If the rental comes in suspiciously low, consider walking away.

ĚThe landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via email. Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work. If the landlord is truly overseas, there is also no way to get a copy of a lease or keys.

ĚThe landlord requires a substantial deposit before handing over the keys or even showing the property. Don’t pay any money before inspecting the home, inside and out. Most reputable Realtors will allow potential home renters to view and see the property before taking any money.

ĚThe landlord asks the renter to wire money through services such as Western Union or Money Gram. Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve. Once the scammers have picked it up, there is little recourse, if any, for getting any money back.

To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit

About Better Business Bureau: BBB's mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. BBB accomplishes this mission by creating a community of trustworthy businesses, setting standards for marketplace trust, encouraging and supporting best practices, celebrating marketplace role models and denouncing substandard marketplace behavior.

Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization's high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB is the preeminent resource to turn to for objective, unbiased information on businesses and charities.

Your Opinions and Comments

Michael Schaffer  
Parker, CO  
July 20, 2011 5:22pm
It's a shame what scam artists are doing to prey on people desperate to find a home. I recently launched a business,, to help renters investigate their prospective landlord and property before they sign... More ›

Elaine K.  
July 20, 2011 10:21am
New post.

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