Monday, December 10, 2012

Rental Scams

No, we haven't been victimized by one, but we have detected several. Enough, in fact that I'm kind of flabbergasted by how many are out there.

The one we've run into several times while inquiring about properties listed for rent in the Gainesville, Florida area, works something like this:

  1. You see the property listed on a rental site or Craigslist or whatever;
  2. You email the alleged landlord about the property;
  3. You get a lengthy letter explaining that he (it's always a guy) and his lovely wife/family (he always has a lovely wife/family) had to leave the country for an extended period (and possibly on short notice) to work as missionaries, or for US AID, or whatever, which is why they won't be able to meet with you or show you the house (but you're free to drive by and have a look from the outside).
I was suspicious of the first such response, and after two very similar ones I did a little bonking about the Intertubes. It's apparently very common (the language is boilerplate, like the Nigerian scam; all I had to do was Google a couple of phrases from the responses to find numerous examples).

The next step, presumably is that they ask you to put down a "security deposit" or "earnest money," and of course it has to be a payment to them abroad via Western Union or whatever. After which you never hear from them again.

If you're ever looking to rent, don't get scammed by this kind of thing. 99.9% of the time, real owners renting real houses or apartments that they really own will either be available to show the property, draw up and sign leases, etc., or else they will have delegated that duty to an agent or property management service.

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