Imagine this: you just bought a new house, you’re getting ready to move in, and when you open the door to your new home for the first time, you find someone else living there.
Here’s what’s happening, scammers are listing homes online for rent, and making off with cash, leaving you and others confused.
And when it comes to this real estate scam, those who work in the business say, the consequences could be costly.
“That house is for sale, it is not for rent, they are not the owner, they have scammed the person out of their money they will never see that money again,” says Realtor at Century 21 Looking Glass, Tim Poxson.
Poxson says scammers will search online for houses that are vacant or up for sale.
Then, list them as rental homes on sites like Craigslist or Zillow.
“They represent that they’re the owner of that house,” says Poxson.
Poxson says, scammers then target those looking to rent, and that’s when things get ugly.
“They say I can’t come back and meet you at that house right now, but you’re welcome to go over and look in the windows or look around the house,” says Poxson.
Once renters decide they like it, Poxson says, scammers will as them to send in an application, security deposit, and sometimes even the first month’s rent before they even meet face to face or sign a lease.
However, little do renters know, the home they think they’re going to move into, is actually owned by someone else.
“If you’re looking for a home to rent, you’re pretty desperate sometimes because you have to move out of someplace,so you think that that’s a good deal and you move forward without checking all the things and we don’t want anybody to become a victim,” says Poxson.
Poxson says, he encountered this type of real estate scam three separate times in the Greater Lansing area. The most recent happened about four months ago.
People call and ask about a property or ask questions about an online listing they want to rent.
Luckily real estate agent’s discovered it was a scam before any transaction was made.
“In one case,the sister of the individual said well let’s call the realtor that’s got it listed, and that realtor happened to be our firm century 21, and we verified that hey that house is not a rental, that house is for sale,” says Poxson.
If you’re looking to rent, there are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t become a victim of a scam.
Officials say, the first thing you should do is check with neighbors to see if they know if the house is for sale or up for rent.
Look online for an official list of rental properties approved by your city’s jurisdiction.
And most importantly, don’t take somebody’s work for it just because they put it online.
Talk to the owner or real estate agent in person, and make sure you’ve seen the inside of the house before handing over any money.