2018-02-21 / Front Page

Better Business Bureau alerted to home rental scam

An Indiana consumer recently reported a rental scam on houseforrent.ws. While looking for rental homes in the Columbus, Ind. area, the consumer found a desirable property with three bedrooms, two baths and an attached two-car garage for $450 a month. When she contacted the presumed homeowner, he informed her how he relocated out of state due to a job. In order to mail her the keys to the property, he would need $850 to cover the deposit and first month’s rent. Cautious of the proposed arrangement, the consumer drove by the property and spoke with the tenant. She learned the tenant had been residing there for about a month and was not for lease.

BBB investigated further and found a different property advertised on housesforrent.ws for $650 with the same phone number. The same house is listed for rent on Zillow.com for $1,690. BBB reached the property owner listed on Zillow.com and discovered that he is not listing the house through housesforrent.ws. He also mentioned how he had been previously alerted about scammers using his property’s information and images.

Rental scams lure consumers with online ads touting beautiful homes, low rents, and great amenities. For vacation rentals, everything is handled online. For local rentals, the scammer may claim to be out of town and unable to show the property. In some cases, bold scammers have even gained illegal access to homes belonging to others and have “shown” the property as if they own it!

In either case, the scammer may create a false sense of urgency, telling the prospective renter that others are interested so immediate action is required. The renter puts down a security deposit or prepays a vacation rental, only to find out that the property is not available… or does not exist.

To avoid a rental property scam, BBB advises consumers to do their homework, investigate further before sending money, and follow these tips:

• Research the listing. Search online to see if the property has multiple listings, or the scammer’s email address or phone number. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, or the same property on different sites with different dollar amounts, that’s a huge red flag.

• Resist the sense of urgency. Scammers often give a sense of urgency in their requests for a deposit due to high interest in the property. They also appear to be very eager to offer you the lease without doing any kind of background checks.

• See the property in person. Don’t send money or share your personal information with someone you’ve never met for a property you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised. And remember: be suspicious of the out-of-state/overseas landlord story. Scammers often claim to be out of the state or country and instruct targets to send money to areas that can’t be traced.

Don’t lose your hard-earned money to unscrupulous frauds. Contact the BBB at info@indybbb.org or 1-866-463- 9222 for more guidance.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national and international programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. BBB Serving Central Indiana was founded in 1916 and serves 46 counties in Central Indiana.

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