I run a couple of classified rental sites in America, and while I do not live in England I know from monitoring Twitters search stream on rental scams, that America is not alone when it comes to dealing with rental scammers.
It feels like an on-slot of scammers have been using my sites to create bogus listings the past 10 months. They try to cheat future tenants out of their deposit money. I have been combating them for the past 6 months and I have learned a lot about how they operate.
I thought I would share with Tessas readers how I track down fraudulent rental listings.
Price Is Way Too Low:
If I see a rental listing come in that looks much lower than the others in the neighborhood, that is when my eyebrows go up and I pull up my chair for a closer look. Scammers are impatient, and with a low price they can get leads quickly.
Free Email Address:
The next step is to see if they are using a free email address like Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail etc. Scammers only use free email services they can hide behind.
No Phone Number:
Most of the time the scammers will not list a phone number to call; they will only want to communicate by email. Most legitimate rental listings include a phone number. If none is listed, I look even further.
Exterior Photo Does Not Match Google Street View:
Google traversed American streets a few years back, getting a full street-viewto accompany their maps. I understand that Google has now started this project in England. This becomes a powerful tool for detecting scammers because many times they do not use the photos from the real house, so you can check the listing photos against Google Street View.
Duplicate Content Found On Another Listing:
Most of the scammers I deal with are from Nigeria. They want to blend in with the other listings so instead of writing the description of the rental themselves, they copy it from other rental ads. So, I Google paragraphs of the content to see if I can find a match with different pictures, address or price. This is a sure sign of a scam.
A good rule to follow to avoid becoming a victim in one of these scams is to deal with the owner of the property directly. When renting homes, meeting the property owner at the property is always a good practice. This helps you verify independently whether the offer is bogus or not.
Bio: Dave Dugdale has been in the online rental advertising business for 5
years with his sites RentVine.com and PickRent.com. He was the first to write a blog on the rental ad industry, and the first to podcast interviews of industry experts in property management (all for a USA audience). Dave has also been leading the way in better detection of rental scams by sharing his database of blacklist email addresses with competitors.