If there is a legitimate endeavor you can pretty much guarantee there is a scam to go with it.  While most “for rent” postings are probably legit we’ve seen numerous scam attempts over the years using a property that is listed “for sale” as bait.  I wrote this post about Craigslist in 2009.  One of our listings became a target of a rental scam this week.

The scammer used hotpads.com account to post the home for rent which then syndicated to other real estate related websites, including Zillow, which allowed the “for rent” listing to overwrite our legitimate “for sale” listing.  The scammer went as far as to create an email address using a derivation of the owner’s name.  What tends to happen is that people do drive-bys to check out the property and once they see it they call us from the real estate sign outside.  It doesn’t take long to figure out there is a scam in progress.  In this case the lady who called had also talked to the scammer: “we’re retired and the house is vacant.  Wire money and we will send you the keys.” Presumably the callback came from a disposable cell or blocked number.

We reported the posting to both Zillow and Hotpads and they were removed within 24 hours.  Zillow has a dedicated page of “Five Tips to Help You Avoid Becoming a Rental Scam Victim.”  Zillow’s tips are listed here but go to their page for the details.  Criagslist has a similar scam awareness page.

  1. Remember the mantra, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
  2. Carefully analyze email correspondence for red flags.
  3. Make sure that the property you are interested in is legitimately for rent.
  4. Use a reputable source in your search for rental listings.
  5. Finally, if someone asks you pay rent without seeing the property and signing a lease, don’t do it