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District Attorney

Posted on: August 3, 2021

Public Service Announcement: Tips to Avoid Rental Scams

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—August 3, 2021


 

 

Contact: Scott Alonso, 925-957-8638

scott.alonso@contracostada.org 

 

 

            Martinez, Calif. – Today, the District Attorney’s Office is sharing important tips for consumers to avoid rental scams. 

What is a rental scam? 

Scammers will list properties for rent online (i.e., Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace) even though they do not own them or have authority to rent them out. The scammer will attempt to have a prospective renter wire transfer or demand cash payment for the lease and or deposit, by claiming they can rent it but are not available to show it now. 

 

Different kinds of rental scams

  • Knockoff listings: When searching for properties be on the lookout for listings that have been copied and pasted from a legitimate listing but then offered at a low price. 
  • Illegal sublets: A scammer has obtained access to a listed property and begins to show the unit as if the unit is their own property or have authority to rent out. 
  • Ghost rentals: Scammers will list properties that are not for rent or do not exist and try to lure a victim in with a promise of low rent and great amenities. Their goal is to get the victims money before they find out.

 

Identifying scams

  • Scammers will request a wire transfer for a first month’s rent, security deposit, application fees or vacation rental fees if applicable as a wire transfer. Please note, a wire transfer is equivalent to handing over cash. 
  • The scammer will request funds prior to signing the lease or viewing the property with the excuse that the property is in high demand, adding an urgency to the transaction. The scammer will claim to have a list of other possible renters who are also interested in the property. 
  • Scammer will claim they are out of the country by alleging they have an agent or lawyer working on their behalf. 

 

Tips to avoid rental scams

Verify who owns the unit or building. To ensure that the person renting the unit is the legitimate owner or property manager, do an online search or visit the Contra Costa County Recorder’s office. The Contra Costa County Recorder’s office is located at 555 Escobar St, Martinez CA 94553.              

Conduct an Internet search using a search engine such as Google or Bing by entering in the listed address, agent or alleged homeowners name, email and phone number. Be suspicious of images that may be generated from Multiple Listing Service (MLS). MLS is a service realtor’s frequently use to list properties for prospective buyers. Scammers will crop and adjust these photos for their own use in fraudulent their ads. 

Legitimate landlords will arrange a tour of the interior of the property without excuse or hesitation. Before any money is exchanged, the landlord will take in an application to do a background check. 

Landlords will usually accept a personal check, a cashier’s check or money order for the first month’s rent and security deposit. 

Never provide an advance payment, money is usually not exchanged until a legitimate lease is signed. Do not agree to pay anything in cash or via wire transfer.

Be wary of giving your personal information until you verify the leasing party before any personal information is given. 

Ask detailed questions about the unit, application and move in dates/process. Scammers do not want to answer detailed questions because they are only after the initial deposit. In doing so they will end communication or ignore the questions or answers will contain strange grammar.  

If a deal is too good to be true, it usually is!!

 

 


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