Finding an affordable place to rent in the Treasure Valley these days can be pretty difficult. So if you find a really good rental deal on a house or apartment while searching online, be sure to make sure it’s legit before giving anyone a cent of your money.
We’ve had several reports of rental scams over the past few months where people go on to online classified sites like Craigslist, find an ad for a house to rent, send the “owner” a payment, and then find out when they try to move in that the whole thing is a scam.
The biggest red flag is when whoever wants to rent you a house asks you to wire them money. As the Federal Trade Commission says, there is never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, or first month’s rent.
For instance, in early October we got a call from a man who narrowly avoided losing over $1,000 when he tried to rent a home in the Maple Grove/Lake Hazel roads neighborhood. He responded to an ad on Craigslist for the home, and began texting with someone claiming to be the owner.
He filled out what turned out to be a bogus application online – one that asked for personal info — and was “approved” to rent.
The “owner” then texted him the code to a key lock box at the home so he could take a tour. The code worked, so he checked it out inside. That’s when the “owner” told him to go to a nearby store and wire her $2,200 to cover first month rent and security deposit.
A clerk at the store told the man it sounded like a scam. So he stopped the transfer and called us.
That was just one of three similar scams for homes in the same neighborhood this fall. In one of the other cases, the fake owner convinced the victims to wire her over $1,000 before they could sign a lease.
Detectives are working to figure out how the scammers are able to get the correct combinations to unlock the key boxes of homes for sale, and are urging area realtors to be extra careful giving that info out.
Anyone with information should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (208) 577-3733.
So remember, if you are looking to rent a home, never pay a security deposit or first month’s rent before you sign the lease.
Be very wary if you never actually meet the person who is trying to rent a house to you, or they claim to be out of the country.
For more info and tips on how to avoid being scammed, check out this Federal Trade Commission tip sheet