During the pandemic, there have been restrictions that have not allowed people to go to certain stores, parks, or houses due to the safety of the public. But what exactly is the rule when you are trying to move during the pandemic? There are some people that think that you aren’t allowed to view the properties to protect the landlords or current owners of the home. However, scammers are taking advantage of this situation and are saying this as an excuse to sell or rent out a property that really isn’t theirs. They are sneaky when tricking people into the coronavirus rental scam and will do anything they can to steal your money.
How the Coronavirus Rental Scam Works
A person who is interested in renting a property looks at websites, such as Craigslist, to find themselves a perfect home to rent. The scammer posts pictures of a property to rent and usually steals pictures of a house from another legit listing. They post them on a website for the renter to see, and the victim messages the scammer saying they are interested.
The scammer tells the victim that due to the coronavirus, they can not see the property before committing to rent the place. The renter understands these conditions and doesn’t question them since they know how serious the pandemic is. They give the scammer first month’s rent and a down payment to purchase the property and get a date to move in. Once they try to move in on a specific date, they realize they have been scammed as they see that someone else lives in the property they wanted to move in to.
How to Avoid The Coronavirus Rental Scam
- Don’t rent a property without viewing it. If someone says you can’t see their property before buying it, then they are probably trying to scam you. There are many ways you can view a property during the pandemic, such as wearing protective gear and sanitizing your hands, before going inside the apartment or house.
- You can also view it via a live video chat with the owner and verify that the video feed is real by having them say a random word and making random hand gestures, such as the peace sign.
- The coronavirus should not be an excuse to not let someone see the property before renting it.
- Don’t wire money to landlords. Landlords usually only accept checks or debit cards via a secure online system (usually only for apartments) before renting out the property. Avoid sending your payments via mail or wire transfer. Only pay using the apartment complex’s official website or by giving a check directly to your landlord.
- Go to the apartment/house you are renting and talk to the owner before giving them money. In many cases, the victims were spared being scammed once they decided to drive by the property and talk to the owner living there. You can ask them if the property is really listed to rent and get confirmation before giving money to anyone.
- Don’t pay for the rental unless you signed the lease and have keys and a receipt in hand. By doing these three things before payment, you have confirmed to yourself that you have a place to live and have the key to get inside the place you paid for.
- Be careful when talking about renting a place online. The listing could be a fake listing and you could be talking to a scammer, especially if you’re looking for a place to rent on Craigslist. Go to the place you are renting and talk to the owner in person instead.
- Find a licensed real estate agent or apartment leasing office to assist you with renting a property. By calling a licensed real estate office or official apartment complex phone number, you are giving yourself peace-of-mind that you won’t be scammed.
- Don’t give out your personal information unless the landlord is authorized to take it. If someone online is asking you for your SSN or other personal information to rent the place, then they are probably trying to scam you with a fake listing and commit identity theft with your information.
- Report scams to your local law enforcement and with the FTC. This will allow you to spread awareness of the scam you faced so that way others can avoid being scammed by the same person.
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