In Denver’s hot housing market, people looking for rentals often feel pressured to make quick decisions. But acting rashly leaves you vulnerable to scammers, who can take your money and disappear. The internet has made such scams easier than ever.
“Crooks steal photos and descriptions of properties for sale on real estate websites, then advertise [them as] rentals at rock-bottom prices,” notes a recent article in AARP magazine. “After a deal is struck – typically by email – renters are asked for payment upfront. When they arrive, they discover that the rental doesn’t exist, or that the actual owner isn’t renting it.”
No matter how desperate you are to seal a deal, it’s important to protect yourself. AARP suggests a few ways to check the veracity of the offer:
Google the property description: Take a large passage of the rental description and paste it into Google. If it comes up in a search as a home sale (vs. rental), the text was likely stolen by a scammer posing as the property owner.
Search the property address: Likewise, an online search of the address will let you know if the property is for sale, rather than rent, if the address is nonexistent, or if it’s a business rather than a home or apartment.
Insist on talking to the owner by phone: It’s easy to hide behind faceless communication by email. Avoid those who insist on communicating exclusively online.
Pay with a credit card: Don’t pay upfront by wire transfer or prepaid debit card; the funds will be hard to recover should the deal turn out to be fraudulent. Use a credit card instead.
Look up the owner: Check with the assessor’s office online to verify the property owner.
Have questions about these tips? Don’t hesitate contacting our office for assistance.