How rental scams work
Typically, the fraudster posts a fake ad on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Craigslist in order to lure those looking to rent a property. These ads can look very professional and may even be actual photos of the property. In reality, the fraudster has no connection to the property whatsoever, but the ad will ask for an upfront payment as a deposit to see the property, or go even further to ask for a month’s rent and security deposit in advance, with the promise that your money will be held in escrow at a title company. In actuality, the money that you will send goes to a fake title or escrow company.
Tips on spotting a rental scam
- They don’t want to meet you in person.
- They want you to move in immediately, without ever seeing the property.
- They ask for rent or a security deposit before signing a lease.
- The price is too good to be true.
- The listing has typos, poor grammar, or excessive punctuation.
- There is no screening process by the scammer.
- The scammer wants you to sign an incomplete lease.
How you can protect yourself
Be skeptical of anyone asking for money upfront for you to see a rental property. Make sure that you are actually communicating with the property owner or a legitimate licensed real estate professional. You can find out the owner’s name and property information on the county assessor’s website where the property is located, and you can verify a real estate broker’s license with the Colorado Division of Real Estate on their license look-up page. Make sure those persons are who they say they are and verify their identity and contact information.
Stay away from doing any rental transactions over the phone, by email, or on the internet, as you need to meet in-person with the owner or the owner’s real estate agent, as well as physically visiting the property. Do not send any money without completely verifying that it is going to the correct and legitimate place.