Another variation of the rental scam is someone who is being evicted from a real apartment and in the last month tries to get a room mate. This person can many times show and even lease the apartment to hundreds of people. Even with signed leases, fakes of coarse. This room mate will take your deposit (and that of all the other suckers), and at the end of the month when you are ready to move in, that person has left with your deposit (and that of many others also). The landlord knows nothing of this arrangement and will turn you (and the rest of the suckers) away since you have no right to that apartment. The landlord never signed a lease and never got your deposit so you will be out of luck. Now you have to track down that person and hope to find them. They could be in any other state or country by now. The reason this happens is because you allowed the room mate to do all the leg work and just trusted them in what they told you.
You can avoid these variations by:
* Dealing with people in person.
* Signing papers in person.
* Getting receipts for your deposits in person.
* Meeting your landlord in person.
* Getting information on your room mates and landlord and doing an internet search on them. There are many sites that for a small fee you can do many searches on criminal backgrounds of people and find out who you are really dealing with. This is specially important if you will be living with this person as a room mate. Ever seen the movie "Psycho"?
* Show up unannounced at your given location and see if the same persons are there at different times.
* Many cities and states have Pedophile registries, use them!
* Check with local real estate agents and find out if this apartment (house or condo) is being listed for rent.
* If they don't care about doing a credit or background check on you, be suspicious.
* Do a reverse phone number look up and see if it matches who they claim to be.
* Take a photo of the person with a phone camera and do a photo check on the internet.
* If there is any pressure put on you or a sense of urgency, walk away!
* Amazingly someone else wants the apartment so you have to decide right now! Walk away!
The rental scam is so bad that the FBI put out a press release about this matter:
Homeowners list their homes for sale with real estate agents, who will list the homes for sale in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and also with public search websites, which allow individuals to query homes for sale via the Internet. Nigerian scammers find homes listed for sale on these public search sites, copy the pictures and listings verbatim, and then post the information onto Craigslist under available housing rentals, without the consent or knowledge of Craigslist, who has been notified.
After the posting is listed, unsuspecting individuals contact the poster, who is Nigerian, for more information on the “rental.” The Nigerian scammer will state that they had to leave the country very quickly to do missionary or contract work in Africa and were unable to rent their house before leaving, therefore they have to take care of this remotely. The “homeowner” sends the prospective renter an application and tells them to send them first and last month’s rent to the Nigerian scammer via Western Union. The prospective renter is further told If they “qualify,” they will send them the keys for their house. Once the money is wired to the scammer, they show up at the house, see the home is actually for sale, are unable to access the property, and their money is gone.
Federal Bureau of Investigation – The Columbia Division: Press Release.