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Common Rental Scams in Georgia

By Karen Godfrey

Rental scams are becoming a more common problem in Georgia. There are all kinds of rental scams out there that you need to be aware of. These types of scams can lure you very easily, and can place a severe financial burden on you.

The Craigslist Scam

This one targets getting the victim's personal and financial information. The perpetrator advertises a rental at a very low price, to attract its victims. They use stolen photos from other rental ads (or even properties for sale that aren't listed as rentals) to make the ad looks authentic. After someone has responded to the ad, they may claim they have gotten several inquiries about the property, and ask the victim for an immediate deposit to secure the property. They may also ask for a scanned ID. Not only has the victim lost money that they wired or transferred immediately, but they now have your personal information, and may use it to steal your identity.

In some cases, the scammer(s) aren't even looking for financial information, just a quick grab of cash. They may claim to be the rightful owner of the home, and present a story of how they had to leave the home quickly to serve a charity mission overseas, or take a new job across the country. They send over a rental "application," request a deposit amount, and state that they'll send over the keys. Once the victim sends over the money, the scammer is never heard from again.

This type of scam tends to follow the same script pattern, making it easier to spot if you're familiar with their hustle. Homes that are listed on non-MLS sites (such as craigslist) at ridiculous rental prices (well below market value) should raise a red flag. These listings usually provide photos of the home, but no address (If an address is provided, call a reputable real estate office to confirm the home's current status). When interacting with the scammer, they will likely tell you to ignore any For Sale signs on the home, and that the home can only be viewed by driving past it.

Rental Scam Emails

There is a form of a rental scam email, and the whole scenario is confusing. This is when a perpetrator contacts you for a property a landlord has listed. They claim to be living overseas, and are being sponsored by a company to come to the United States for two years. They ask the landlord if they can wire them a check for more the amount of the deposit, and ask for the remaining balance of money to be wired back to them. The sad part is, the first check that was wired to the landlord was fake to begin with, leaving the landlord in the hole, and in trouble with their bank.

The WHO Scam

In the same vein as most craigslist scams, these perpetrators use the name of the World Health Organization to lure renters into the scam. They will reach out to a renter via ad or email, and claim that they are already overseas for a long period of time doing work for the WHO. They will state that they are looking for someone to rent and take care of their home while they are away. They claim to have the keys and paperwork for the home in their procession overseas. They ask for a deposit and then state they will mail the keys and paperwork for the home when the deposit is received. The victim wires or transfers the money and never receives the keys or paperwork.

Vacation Rental Scam

This scam is so easy because typically when you rent a vacation home, you are not going to look at it before hand, obviously, because it is a short term rental away from home. Basically the perpetrator lists the vacation home which may or may not exist, and if it does exist they do not own it. The victim secures the home, and generally pays the full amount before they leave for vacation, not realizing they have been scammed. If the property does exist, the victim who is now on vacation, arrives at the home, and discovers it is owned by someone else, and it never was for rent.

Hijacked Ads Scam

This scam is when the perpetrator takes over a legitimate ad by changing the email address or taking all the information and claiming it as their ad on a different website. They have now rented a legitimate property under their name, receive a deposit, and leave the renter and original ad placer in an uncomfortable situation.

There are a couple of things to make note of that may help you before you fall for a rental scam. Make sure you see the property before you pay a deposit. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here is a real indicator of a possible fake ad: Does the ad use proper grammar? Most scammers live overseas and are not fluent in English. Always stay on the safe side, and protect yourself.

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