Sometimes, in the excitement and nerves of looking to find a home, a potential renter or buyer could be more susceptible to falling for scams, and scammers know this. USA.gov and the Federal Trade Commission shared several scams to be on the lookout for while you’re on your next house hunt.
Rental scams happen when either a property owner or potential tenant misrepresents themselves. Rental scams also misrepresent the terms and availability of a rental property. Fake ads and fake responses to rental ads can hurt both tenants and property owners. Here are some tips to spot a fake ad:
- The advertised price is much lower than that of similar properties.
- Ads for the property have grammatical and spelling errors, or overuse capital letters. Another thing to look out for is the use of uncommon spellings of words, like “favour” instead of “favor.”
- You can only work with an agent. The agent says that the owner is too busy, out of the country, or otherwise unavailable to handle the rental. Do a search on the owner, real estate management company, and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
- The owner or agent requires you to sign the lease before you see the rental property.
- The owner or agent isn’t able to let you enter the home or apartment or charges you a fee to view it. Don’t rent a property that you are unable to see before signing the agreement.
- The owner or agent uses high-pressure sales tactics. They may urge you to rent quickly before someone else gets the property. Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics.
Property owners can also be the target of scams. If you’re offering a property for lease, it’s important to be aware of renter’s scams. Learn how to protect yourself from scams targeting property owners:
- Search your renter’s name and email address to see if others have flagged them as a scammer.
- Consider using a tenant background check, also known as a consumer report.
- Before renting your property, meet the prospective tenant or the person who will pay the rent.
- Conduct an image search of your property. An imposter may use images of your property to create their own listings as part of a scam.
- Request each renter’s personal references and follow up with those individuals.
- Carefully verify your renter’s income.
How to Hire a Mover and Protect Yourself
Most moving companies are reputable businesses that do quality work. But some moving companies use fraudulent practices to steal your money. Learn how to spot moving fraud before it happens:
- Get a company representative to come to your home for a realistic estimate of the move. Don’t accept an estimate over the phone.
- Get a written estimate from several movers. In general, estimates are based on time, the number of movers needed, who does the packing, and the number of rooms to be moved.
- Verify that the company is insured in case your goods are damaged during the move.
- Ask for the company’s U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) number and use the FMCSA database to check if the company is registered.
- Reach out to your local, county, or state consumer affairs agency or state attorney general to see if there is a complaint record.
Mortgage Assistance Scams
Scammers may offer to “help” you make your mortgage payments, but they’re just trying to take your money. Here are some common warning signs of a mortgage relief scam:
- Scammers will demand payment upfront, before you get any services. That’s illegal — and a warning sign to avoid them. The Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule says it’s illegal for a company to charge you a penny until it’s given you a written offer for a loan modification or other relief from your lender — and you accept the offer.
- Scammers may want you to pay only by cashier’s check, wire transfer, or a mobile payment app, since it’s hard to get your money back if you pay this way.
- Scammers may try to convince you to transfer the deed to your home to them. The deed is the legal document that proves who owns the home. If you transfer the deed, you’re not likely to get it back.
No matter the situation, scammers will come up with different stories to pressure you into paying them when you’re attention is focused on trying to find a home. Knowing some of their tricks can help you avoid them and keep yourself and your finances safe.