As if the housing market didn’t have enough problems, there is a housing rental scam making its way around the Western Washington region, and very likely other regions of the nation. In Seattle, Washington, King 5 News reports that scam artists are convincing people to rent homes that are not available, including some properties that are actually for sale by another party that is not aware of the scam.
One potential renter reported that she found a rental on a website for what she thought was a reasonable price, but when the alleged homeowner was contacted, he wanted to rent the home sight unseen. When the potential renter insisted on seeing it, the alleged owner said he lived out of state and that his attorney, who also lived out of state, would have to fly in to show the property. That would require an upfront deposit of $250.
The potential renter sent the deposit, but stopped payment on it when she saw a real estate office “for sale” sign on the property. When she contacted the listing agent at the real estate office, she was told that the house was only for sale and not for rent. She was flatly told that this was a scam. Fortunately this person did not lose any money in the transaction. However, if she had, there would be little recourse for her.
According to the King 5 News report, “Catching the suspects is tough. The state attorney general’s office said it does not investigate these cases, and most local police agencies do not investigate either because they are Internet crimes that occur outside of their jurisdictions.”
“Victims can file reports with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and National White Collar Crime Center. Special Agent Fred Gutt with the Seattle FBI office warns every complaint will not get an individual response, but the complaints give the agency a chance to track trends.”
During this turbulent time of home foreclosures, house sales that take an extraordinary time to sell and greater demand for rentals, people are especially vulnerable. It is well to remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it very well may be a scam. Everyone should be reminded that when it comes to any financial dealing, check all the sources and never release personal financial information or actual funds unless the transaction is lock-tight and legal.
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