Across the U.S. it appears that rental frauds are on the increase. Fueling this trend may be the high amount of foreclosures. Many national newspapers are citing numerous cases of families and individuals that have been duped out of, in some cases, thousands of dollars in money that they thought was going toward the down payment and rental of a home.
Worse than that, unscrupulous people are making off with personal and financial information, including social security and bank account numbers, that can be used to perpetuate identity theft.
One way unwary renters are being taken, is highlighted in a article on Northcountytimes.com: Two men were arrested in California after police said that they broke into foreclosed houses and posed as landlords to collect thousands of dollars from potential renters. The men were found at a vacant house that was in foreclosure. They had listed the house for rent on Craigslist after breaking in. They had paperwork and had collected several thousands in rent and deposits from people who believed they were renting the home.
Some people are putting down money on homes that are already in the process of foreclosure. According to tcpalm.com, one man in Florida, put down a $3,100 deposit and paid $1,500 in monthly rent for eight months on a house that, it turns out, was actually owned by the bank because the previous owner had allowed the house to go into foreclosure before getting a renter. The "renter" did not find this out until a bank representative showed up at his door and told him that he was trespassing.
With internet sites that allow fly-by-night crooks to list convincing fake rental ads, tempting offers have lured many. With so much at stake it is imperative to do your homework to avoid being victimized by such fraud.
RentalHomesPlus.com offers the following tips: Avoid ads that are "too good to be true." Always see the home in person before providing any personal information about yourself or giving any deposits. Be wary of any potential property owner that will only communicate via e-mail or flat out refuses to talk over the telephone or meet in person.
Furthermore, tcpalm.com suggests having a lawyer or your local legal aid office look over a lease before handing over a security deposit. It is also recommended that you use a licensed real estate agency to broker the deal if you are renting a home, or rent through a homeowner's association or corporate leasing agency instead of from an independent homeowner.
In addition, you should run the property address and homeowner's name through the local property appraiser and clerk of courts Web sites to see if there are liens on the property. If you are putting down a deposit, make sure to pay with a check and keep records of any rent or other payments made.Above all, do not be afraid to ask specific questions. If something doesn't feel right, go with your gut instinct. With careful planning and forethought, renters can avoid being taken in by a rental scam.