Chicago, IL-September 29, 2010- With fewer people buying homes in the current market and more people renting it is no surprise that scammers are targeting renters more frequently. The Better Business Bureau urges consumers to be wary when looking through classified rental listings online.
Typically, scammers search Web sites listing legitimate properties for sale, take the information in those ads and post it with their own e-mail address under the housing rentals category. Potential victims who see these ads and contact the “supposed homeowner” via e-mail may receive a response explaining that he or she had to leave the U.S. quickly because of some missionary, contract work in Africa or similar deceptive story. The potential renters are then asked to wire two months’ rent. When victims arrive at the property on the agreed-upon date they find the house or apartment is not for rent and its true owners know nothing about the agreement.
“This is not a new scam, just a variation of an old one,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Scammers might also ask potential renters to fill out credit applications asking for personal information like credit history, social security numbers, and work history, leaving the would be victims open to identity theft and the double whammy of losing the rent down payment as well as having their financial information stolen.”
In the past twelve months alone, there have been 267 complaints filed and more than 14,500 inquiries to the BBB about companies in the “Property Management” category.
The BBB offers the following advice on how to avoid being victimized when looking to rent a home or apartment:
· Only deal with individuals and organizations who are local and visit the location you are interested in renting before paying any money or signing any contracts
· Be suspicious if you’re asked to only use a wire transfer service for rental payments
· Beware of e-mail correspondence from a potential “landlord” that’s written in poor English or doesn’t make complete sense
· Research the average rental rates in the area, and be suspicious if the rate is significantly lower
· Visit as many homes or apartments as you can in order to have a better idea of what your money buys. It is also important to factor in the cost of living in the area as well
· Don’t give out personal information, like social security, bank account, or credit card numbers during a rental search
· Never wire cash to unknown contractors
· If a rental property deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is
· Check the record of any real estate management company involved in the listing of the property with the BBB at www.bbb.org
For more information on finding businesses you can trust, visit www.bbb.org
As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.