The Wichita Falls Police Department’s Financial Crimes Unite has seen a rise in persons becoming victims of rental scams from various websites such as craigslist and HotPad. Though many times the website offers great deals some of those deals can be scammers trying to get your money before you find out.
How Rental Scams Work
Scammers know that finding the right apartment or vacation rental can be hard work, and a seemingly good deal is hard to pass up. They’ve been known to game some vacation rental websites and bulletin boards. The take-away: when you’re looking for a rental, its caveat renter — renter beware.
Being savvy when you’re in search of a rental is well worth the effort. Below are some tips to prevent or at least mitigate the chances of becoming a victim of a rental scam:
They tell you to wire money
This is the surest sign of a scam. There’s never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, first month’s rent, or vacation rental fee. That’s true even if they send you a contract first. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease
It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it’s for rent, and that it is what was advertised. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the owner and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
They say they’re out of the country
But they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or an “agent” working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys. Don’t send money to them overseas. If you can’t meet in person, see the apartment, or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking. What if the rental itself is overseas? Paying with a credit card or through a reputable vacation rental website with its own payment system are your safest bets. If it does not feel right investigate further before sending money or personal information.
If you feel like you have been a victim of theft please contact the Wichita Falls Police Department with all available information at (940)761-7792. On many occasions the Scammer is not from our jurisdiction but with enough information the case may forwarded to the correct location for investigation.
For more information go to: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0079-rental-listing-scams