Online platforms are revolutionizing how businesses operate, including the property rental industry. While online property listings reach a larger audience, streamline the rental process and reduce risks associated with vacancies, they also open the door to scammers who are keen to exploit the system.
As a rental property owner, your reputation could be jeopardized if your property becomes the focal point of a scam. This blog will provide tips on how to protect yourself and your potential tenants.
How Do Scammers Trick People Using Your Property?
Here’s how scammers manage to trick landlords and steal money from potential tenants:
They Steal Your Ad
Scammers use sophisticated tools and methods to scrape information off legitimate property listings. They will then copy everything including photographs, property descriptions, amenities, and sometimes even reviews if they're on the same page. This creates a mirror image of your legitimate listing, but on a different platform or website where you haven't posted it yourself.
This theft is not just one consisting of stealing digital assets; it's identity theft for your property. Often the only difference between your listings and theirs is the contact information. When scammers use your photos and property details, they are indirectly stealing your reputation and credibility as a legitimate renter or seller.
They Ask for Money
Once the fake listing is up, the scammer waits for inquiries. As soon as someone expresses interest, the scammer will communicate as if they are the actual property owner. They may employ high-pressure tactics, urging the person to make a quick decision and pay a deposit immediately.
They often request the deposit through non-refundable methods like wire transfers, gift cards, or peer-to-peer payment services. The interested party, thinking they are securing a legitimate property, then sends the money. This not only results in financial loss for them but also creates a misplaced trust in property listings, which can harm the actual owner.
They Go Silent
After receiving the deposit, the scammer breaks off all communication with the prospective tenant. Email accounts may be deactivated, phone numbers changed, or messages left unanswered. The scammer basically disappears, leaving the victim confused and increasingly concerned.
The person who wanted to rent the property will eventually realize that they've been tricked. They may reach out to legal authorities or try to investigate themselves, often leading them to the legitimate property and its actual owner.
You Get Blamed
The duped person, now realizing they've been scammed but not fully understanding how, may mistakenly believe that you are the scammer since the property details match your legitimate listing.
This can result in negative reviews on your real listings, reports to authorities, or defamatory posts on social media platforms, all targeted at you. Even if you prove your innocence, the damage to your reputation can be long-lasting.
How to Protect Yourself and Others
Scammers can also present themselves as tenants and false tenant references. Despite the dangers that come with rental scams, there are tangible measures you can take, as a landlord, to protect yourself and your property. Here’s how you can protect your investment from common rental scams:
Be Careful with Ads
When you post ads online for your rental property, be careful what information you share. Don't put too many details that could make it easy for someone to pretend they own your property. You can even add a watermark to your photos so people know the ad is really from you.
Check People Out
When someone wants to rent from you, it's okay to ask them for identification and references. You should check these carefully. Call the references and look at IDs closely. You can also run a background check and credit report. If someone is not willing to go through this process, it could be a red flag.
Scammers want to move fast before you catch on to them. As such you want to ensure that you aren’t overwhelming prospective tenants. Legitimate renters will understand if you need time to check things out.
Trust Your Gut
If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Your gut feeling can often be a good indicator that something is off. If you feel uneasy at any point, do some more digging. Your ultimate goal is to protect your rental business.
As a landlord, there are vital documents you need to keep track of. Always keep records of conversations, payments, and agreements. If something goes wrong, having good records can protect you. Save texts, emails, and always write down any agreements and have both parties sign them.
Laws and scams are always changing. Keep yourself updated about what's happening in the rental world. There are plenty of online forums and websites where landlords share advice and warnings.
Watch the Money
Be cautious about how you handle payments. Always use methods that can be traced, like checks or online payment gateways. Don't accept cash, especially for large amounts like deposits, as it's hard to trace and easy for scammers to abuse. If someone gives you a check, wait for it to clear before you give them the keys.
Red Flags for Online Rental Scams
Here are some red flags to look out for to save yourself from rental scams:
- The listed rent is unusually low compared to similar properties nearby.
- The property owner claims they can't show the apartment or meet up in person.
- A hefty deposit or fee is demanded upfront to reserve the property.
- The landlord asks for excessive personal or financial details.
Identifying potential scams can protect your rental business and reputation. If you're looking to really secure your rental investment, consider working with a property management company like Schambs Property Management.
Our team can vet tenants thoroughly and ensure all transactions are legitimate and above-board. Plus, we handle everything from maintenance to rent collection, allowing you to focus on what matters most. Contact us today to learn about our property management services!