Housing rental scams are on the rise worldwide. The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, commonly known as CID, reminds the Army community to be cautious when responding to any advertisement regarding home or apartment rentals.
According to Edward Labarge, director of CID’s Major Cybercrime Unit, scammers use a variety of tactics to steal people’s money before the victim determines the listing is fake.
“A typical rental scam works by a property being listed at a low price, usually below market rate, to get the attention of potential renters,” said Labarge. “Then the scammers will pressure the renters to pay a deposit and the first and last month’s rent to secure the rental.”
Although rental scams may be targeted toward anyone seeking a rental property, military members may be more prone to falling victim due to frequent Permanent Change of Station moves. The scam is accomplished when rentals are advertised, but they do not actually exist, are no longer available, or are up for sale.
Fake listings often lure victims in by offering military discounts, low rent, good neighborhoods, and great amenities.
Known types of rental scams:
Scammers use real rental ads and photos from legitimate postings to create their own fake ads. Scammers will often use the same name as the legitimate posting and change the email address, or other contact information, to their own.
Scammers make fake listings using photos from properties that are not for rent, for sale, or do not exist.
Watch for Warning Signs:
• They want you to sign or send money before you see the property.
• They want the security deposit or first month’s rent before you sign the lease.
• They ask you to wire or send money through a payment app.
• They say they are out of town or out of the country.
• They are ready to make a deal with no background information.
• Protect yourself from becoming a victim of a rental scam:
• Do not rely solely on email to contact the owner and be wary of foreign telephone numbers.
• Do online research of the rental company, property address, and the owner.
• Conduct a reverse image search of the photos to see where else the images are being used.
• Ask for additional photos. The actual owner or property manager should be able to provide additional photos.
• Compare rent amount to other rentals in the area.
CID officials remind the Army community, if you feel you are a victim of a rental scam, contact your local CID office or law enforcement agency as well as the Federal Trade Commission.