When times get tough, crooks get busy. Bad guys are always out for a the next way to make a quick buck while praying on the needs of their victims. Real estate is not immune to this, and one trend that has grown over the last few years is the fake landlord scam.
All around the country, fake landlords are offering showings on foreclosed, bank owned, and vacant properties. After giving a tour, the fake landlord offers fraudulent rental forms, accepts payments for a deposit, first month rent, and last month rent. Once the payment clears, the fake landlord vanishes with your money, often leaving behind only a disconnected phone number.
The biggest red flag to know that you are dealing with a fraudster is the lack of a physical office, well below market rents, and requests for a wire or money order. You can also check for recent property sales or ownership records. Most banks try to sell properties, not rent them out.
The best way to protect yourself in this situation as a renter is to follow your gut, but as an agent, you may need to take extra steps to keep the properties secure. Fake landlords need access to the property for showings, so be sure your lock boxes are secure and change the combinations regularly to keep unwanted people out.
Like with most scams, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Read more at The Columbus Dispatch.