RESIDENTIAL RENTAL SCAMMERS: Combining Fraud with the Risk of Identity Theft
There have been MANY incidents over the years where a prospective tenant has paid a SCAMMER cash for the first month’s rent and damage deposit for a rental property, usually a single family dwelling.
Prospective tenants and Individuals in general need to become more aware of common scams like this, and other scams where money is exchanged with someone whom you don’t know.
Prospective tenants need to be aware of signs that contribute to rental fraud and should take appropriate action to determine the identity and the authority of the Individual whom they deal with. EG Business card? D.L’s? Look for a vehicle and record license plate #? Photo with cell phone?
Always establish the identity of the person whom you are dealing with, and don’t just ask for a name. Get some identification!
A landlord is a credit grantor and with the consent of a prospective tenant, has a permissible purpose to obtain a consumer credit report as a criterion for approving the rent application. Personal information on rental applications should be protected in accordance with the applicable Privacy Act in your area. Ask how your personal information is protected? Locked up? Shredded?
Identity thieves are always finding new ways to obtain personal information and when you hand over an application for rent, employment or anything else, make sure that it’s not to an identity thief.
One of the warning signs for potential rental fraud is the ”owner’ or ’landlord’ insisting on a month’s rent and damage deposit be paid in cash and resisting accepting checks. This prevents the applicant from issuing a ’Stop Payment’ if the fraud is discovered in time… and the fraudster doesn’t want to be identified by the bank when depositing the check. Other fraud indicators include an attractive property advertised below market price for the area; a landlord who is evasive when asked questions he should know the answers to, has many excuses for why he can’t show the inside of the house.
When rental advertisements seem too good to be true…take some additional steps:
- Check with building management. EG resident manager or caretaker in the case of apartments (emergency contact information is likely posted in the lobby)
- Fraudsters will sub-let an apartment without Management’s consent, they can’t, but when they have your money, you won’t get it back
- Obtain identification from the alleged landlord that is advertising a single family dwelling... as noted earlier.
It is everyone’s responsibility to be aware of whom they are dealing with. Pretend you’re a Loans Officer at a Financial Institution and you’re lending money. Do you give it to someone without establishing their identity? Of course not. So take the appropriate action to determine who you’re giving you’re hard earned rent money to.