How to spot, avoid rental property scams

Business & Consumer

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – It’s a rough way to start a new chapter… you’ve paid your first month’s rent, and started moving into your new rental property… only to find out the whole thing was a scam.

Rental property scammers scour neighborhoods and listing websites for the “for rent” signs. Then they create fake listings and fake leases– all to sell you a fake story.

“They’re able to provide the prospective resident with a code, gain access to the property, they do their own self showings, and then they’re pretty much forwarded a fake lease and then they end up CashApping the scammer,” maintenance coordinator for Auben Realty, Jennifer Valentin said.

When the scammers make the process seem so legitimate, how can you know if it’s the real deal? Valentin says there are some things to keep an eye out for.

“You always want to make sure the lease that you’re signing has the owners name, or the property management company’s name,” Valentin said. “You want to make sure that you’re providing a check or submitting money through a property management software.”

She advises against using websites like Craigslist or Facebook for property listings.

And she says to be on the look out for red flags. A big one– legitimate landlords usually accept payment by check– not cash, or payments via Venmo or CashApp.

“I would highly recommend to avoid any type of cash or cash app,” Valentin said.

She says her best tip…do your research.

“Much sure that you’re verifying that the owner on the lease is legit, or at least if it’s not the owner it’s the property management company,” Valentin said. “Do your research. Google these properties. You can find out who the owners of these properties are. Make sure that, like I said, that matches with the lease.”

If you’ve fallen prey to one of these scams, the best thing to do is notify the police, and leave the property as soon as possible.

“You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re having to get evicted, because that’s only going to hurt you in the long run when trying to find additional properties moving forward,” Valentin said.

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