Searching for the perfect place to call home can be a challenge. There are so many things to consider and finding the home that suits you and your needs can take a little time. Perhaps, you think you have found a place that looks great on the internet. It’s in the area you need to be, has all the upgrades, and the price is even better than you hoped!
Stop right there: are you about to walk into a fraud?
Unfortunately, rental fraud is an ongoing problem in the rental industry. The holiday season is a prime time for rental fraud, and we at Park Avenue Properties want to take this opportunity to give you a few tips to help you protect yourself from rental fraud over the holidays, and year round.
These rental scams can be online only scams designed to obtain your personal information or the scam can move from the internet to an in person scam designed to relieve you of your money. Either way, protect yourself with these helpful hints:
One of the first giveaways that a rental listing is a scam is the price. Perhaps, you have been looking in a particular neighborhood and have found that most of the homes are renting for around $1,000 per month. Then you see a listing for a home that’s a steal; they only want $750 per month! Penny-pinchers beware: a savvy shopper knows that sometimes a seemingly great deal isn’t always really a good deal, and in this case you may be left empty handed or with your identity stolen. It never hurts to check, it could be legitimate. But if you keep running into red flags beyond the price, run the other way!
Another immediate tip off that a home may be a fraud is a lack of address. If you get far enough to email for information about a home without an address in the posting, you may be told that they will not reveal the address of the property before showing it due to a risk of vandalization. This is unnecessary and more than likely another red flag that you are walking into a scam. There are often no photos included on these ads, either. Bottom line: if you can’t see it and know exactly where it is, it’s probably a fake.
Maybe everything seems legitimate, the price is right, there are pictures and an address listed on the ad and you are ready to go out and see the home! But the person you are working with is saying that they require a credit check (“so they aren’t wasting your time or theirs”) or asking for a deposit, fee or partial months rent in order to set up a time to see the property. If you are asked for these things, do not provide them. There is never any reason for you to be asked to pay money or give out your social security number in order to see a property. Never give money or your private information to anyone you do not know or deem as trustworthy.
Perhaps still the process has been on the up and up. You have not been asked for money or personal information, the price seems just right but not sketchy and you were given all pertinent information on the home. You’ve gotten to see the home and it looks great! You are interested. If the “agent” asks for cash, check or money order to be handed to him or her in order for you to begin the rental process, this is a huge red flag. Just as you should never be asked for money or your social security number to see a property, you should also never be asked to hand it directly to a person. In this age of technology, most legitimate sources will have an online portal on which you will be expected to pay and apply for your rental home. This process should be done all online. Further, a legitimate property management firm will have a website with their name and logo on it, so you know who you are giving your information and money to and know that you are not getting scammed.
If you are at all in doubt, always call the property management firm who is handling the property to ask questions. Make sure you are calling a phone number provided by a public source, such as Google, and not calling a number provided by the possible con artist himself. Do your research and if you are still uncomfortable or are having doubts, just walk away from the deal. It is better to “lose out” on a rental property than to end up swindled!
One of the biggest benefits of choosing to work with a property management firm, like Park Avenue Properties, over working directly with a landlord is the security in knowing that we have your back! A property management firm will be able to easily provide a secure, legitimate source for all your rental needs. From customer service when you need us to a friendly hello and welcome to the neighborhood, Park Avenue Properties will be there to answer your questions and ensure that you feel comfortable with the rental process, so you know you are not being taken advantage of.
Regardless of which path you choose to your perfect rental home, be cautious, protect yourself and your information and enjoy the upcoming holiday season!