In today’s fast-paced digital world, the housing market has gone online, making it easier than ever for renters to find their next home. However, this convenience comes at a cost. According to the Better Business Bureau, a shocking 43% of U.S. renters have encountered a rental scam at some point. The numbers for renters aged 18-29 are even graver; they are 42% more likely to experience rental fraud. Forbes paints an even more alarming picture, stating that 9.1% of renters in this age group have lost money to such scams, compared to 6.4% of all renters.
The stakes are high, both emotionally and financially. The FBI’s Internet Crime Report from 2021 notes that a staggering $350 million was lost to housing and rental scams in that year alone. At Legacy Private Trust Company, we believe that knowledge is your best defense. Here are some tips on ensuring a listing is legitimate and steps for reporting scams if you encounter one.
Verifying a Listing’s Legitimacy: Due Diligence is Key
Don’t Rush into Financial Commitments
The first rule is straightforward yet critical: never wire transfer a security deposit or the first month’s rent before meeting the landlord in person. Wire transfers are notoriously hard to trace, and scammers often utilize this method to make off with your money. While urgency can sometimes be necessary in competitive rental markets, it should never come at the cost of your financial security.
The Importance of In-Person Tours
In line with the first rule, always tour the property in question or, if that’s not possible due to distance or other limitations, have a trusted person visit it on your behalf. This serves two purposes: firstly, it ensures that the property actually exists. Secondly, it allows you to meet the landlord and evaluate the legitimacy of the property and the person leasing it. You can also use this opportunity to check for discrepancies between the listing and the actual property.
Before Signing, Make Sure Everything Adds Up
Your final precautionary step should be not to pay anything before signing a legally binding lease. This document outlines the terms and conditions of your rental arrangement, providing legal protection for both parties involved. Without a lease, you have no legal grounding if something goes awry, making it easier for fraudsters to take advantage of you.
Reporting Rental Scams: Be a Responsible Citizen
Unfortunately, even the most cautious individuals can fall prey to scams. If you find yourself a victim or merely encountering a suspicious listing, it’s essential to report it.
Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a governmental body specifically designed to protect consumers. They have a designated portal at reportfraud.ftc.gov, where you can submit details about the scam you encountered.
Another crucial step is to report the fraudulent listing to the website where it was posted. Many websites, such as Craigslist, have mechanisms for reporting suspicious activities and will take appropriate actions to remove the listing and potentially bar the scammer.
Protecting yourself from housing rental scams involves a combination of caution, diligence, and responsible action. As the digital age makes it easier for these scams to proliferate, staying educated and vigilant becomes increasingly important. Legacy Private Trust Company is committed to empowering you with the information you need to navigate the complexities of modern life securely.
If you are a Legacy client and have questions, please do not hesitate to contact your Legacy advisor. If you are not a Legacy client and are interested in learning more about our approach to personalized wealth management, please contact us at 920.967.5020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This newsletter is provided for informational purposes only.
It is not intended as legal, accounting, or financial planning advice.