SCAM ALERT: Tips to Avoiding Landlord-Tenant Fraud
Published On: September 17, 2018 Posted by: Jeremy Peterson
Housing options in Utah are becoming so scarce right now that fraudsters are making a fortune taking advantage of the desperate and unaware. Take for instance an episode we witnessed just last week.
We listed a one bedroom unit for rent in Ogden on a Wednesday afternoon for $650 per month. We advertised a $750 deposit, no pets, no smoke, and good credit being a condition of renting the property. On Friday, a well qualified couple was viewing the unit and discovered a woman walking out the front door. When the couple used our registered lockbox system to obtain the key to view the unit, the woman leaving the unit said she had rented the property and that she had possession of the key. This couple called us to say that someone was living in the property. We immediately went to the property to determine what was happening.
Sure enough, an inspection of the unit revealed that someone had begun to move their belongings into the property. A review of our registry showed the last person to obtain access to the lockbox. We called that woman and spoke to her. During the conversation, she indicated she had called on a Craigslist ad (where we don’t advertise) and spoken to a guy named “Greg” on the phone. Greg said she could have pets and that a background and credit check didn’t matter. All he required of her was to wire $1,200 to his bank account as a deposit and she could have the key and move in. He would get back to her with the lease agreement to sign. This woman wired the money. Two hours later we were on the phone explaining to her that she had been defrauded and that she needed to call the police.
The sting of this fraud was painful for this woman. She was a single mother with a lot of pets who was living in her mother’s basement. She could not afford the loss that she incurred through this theft. To ad insult to injury, not only did she lose her money, she was compelled to remove her belongings from a home that she thought was hers. It was sad to watch.
So, what can tenants do to avoid being bamboozled by fraudsters? Here are some tips:
- DONT WIRE MONEY – If you need to pay a deposit, do so with a cashiers check, personal check, money order, or some other form that leaves a paper trail.
- GUT CHECK – If the online ad sounds to good to be true, it probably is.
- FOLLOW THE PROCESS – Most landlords have minimal standards for renting. Most also require an application be completed. Expect to fill out an application for your landlord and have a means to deliver it to them. We have our applications online.
- DESPERATION LEADS TO VICTIMHOOD – Be calm and level headed about your expectations and approach to finding housing. Broadcasting to prospective landords that you are desperate for housing and need to move in immediately not only turns them off but also says you are an easy target for fraud.
Hopefully this will help a few people keep hard earned money in their pocket and avoid the pitfalls of our current housing market. The market is a better place for everyone when the bad actors are not rewarded.