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Avoid Rental Scams – What we have seen

Florida renters need to be aware of how to avoid rental scams that you can quickly come across on places like Facebook Marketplace, Zillow, or Craigslist.

We help renters find homes to rent in the Port St. Lucie area and throughout the Treasure Coast.

We hear stories from some of them about how they got scammed or almost got scammed while searching for a rental home in the area.

Examples that our clients have experienced:

A price that seems too good to be true.

One of our customers was looking for a rental at $1600. At the time of this writing, that gets you a 2-bedroom home in our Port St. Lucie rental market.

They saw an online ad in a social media marketplace that advertised a 4-bedroom house for that price.

They called the number, scheduled a showing, and met a “property manager” at the rental home address.

As they visited the home, they called us to ask for our help in applying.

We started researching the property and we discovered it was a property owned by a national rental home firm that does not advertise its rental homes on social media sites.

The name of the “property manager” was not on the showing information. The person could not answer the question as to who owned the property. In fact, this company allows you to call and get your own access code to show it yourself.

When we called the owner’s company, we only found voicemail.

We told our customers that this rental listing ad has many red flags of being fake.

Yet, our customers still wanted to apply, against our advice. The property manager directed them to an online app via a Google form that asked for all their personal identification.

We advised against filling out the form, as it could lead to their information being compromised.

Once we sent them the real and correct link to the property for rent and saw the warnings about fake ads, they stopped the process, protecting their identity and not losing money.

How did the scammer “property manager” get access? This national company had a system to allow “self-show” that the property manager exploited to “show” potential victims the property.

Lack of Information

Our customers recently sent some Facebook marketplace listings to check out, and there were some additional signs of potentially a scammer at work.

First, we looked at the profile of the person who posted. Sometimes it was their first day on Facebook, or their first day in the group, or their first post on the Market place.

Other times, their profile was 100% in a non-English language, often with clues from pictures as to where they currently live.

When we pressed the contact for an address, we were given a phone number to call, instead of an address.

Google reverse image search can sometimes reveal the national property rental site from which the image has been swiped.

Protect yourself from rental scams

Fortunately for our customers, they did not fall for the scam that was likely a setup for identity theft.

There are good landlords who are do-it-yourselfers who will advertise their property online.

But you will need to be sure you are dealing with the actual owner or property manager.

Here are some tips for your spidey sense development :

  1. Does the price seem too good to be true?
  2. Are they asking you for a steep deposit before seeing the property?
  3. Does the application form seem to be an insecure form maker?
  4. Are you asked UP FRONT to wire money or do cash transfers via apps that have no consumer protections?
6 Tips to Avoid Rental Scams

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself:

  1. Ask us or your real estate agent to verify ownership of the property.
  2. Find the property appraiser’s website and search for the owner.
  3. Put the address in a search engine and see what else you find.
  4. You might be able to find online reviews on the landlord and the property.
  5. See the property in person before you file any application or pay any fees.
  6. Ask about what’s included in the lease, amenities, and any particular terms in the lease to be aware of.

We’ve seen variants of these scams many times. Scammers prey on the desperation to find a lower-priced property or prey on the sense of getting a good deal for a better house than expected for the price you are shopping at.

By taking these steps, you can reduce the risk of falling prey to rental property scams.

Rent a home through us

When you rent a home with us in Port St Lucie or surrounding areas, we verify ownership before we take you to see the property.

We will help you navigate verified homes on the market, secure access to see them, tour them with you, and walk with you through the custom paperwork process of each rental.

When you allow us to guide you through the rental process, you’ll have the confidence of knowing that the paperwork will be good, that your money will be handled with care, and that you’ll have a verified property owner.