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Santa Maria Real Estate Alert: Beware of Rental Scams on Craig’s’ List

This scam is a good example of the old adage – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The hook:    Extremely cheap rent
The hint:      Sending money out of the country via cashier’s check

There is a common scam run on websites (Craig’s List in particular, but not exclusively) whereby properties that are listed for sale with an agent are fraudulently advertised for rent. Typically, the person running the rental ad tells potential renters that they are overseas working (in the armed services or as a missionary, etc.) and they advertise very cheap rent. They ask the potential tenant to send a cashier’s check for the first and last month’s rent and/or a prepayment of several months of rent in exchange for them mailing the keys at a later date. Unfortunately, once your money goes out of the country, there is very little you can do to recover it. These people are very clever; they will access property records and create fake email accounts with the real property owner’s name.

From a Realtor’s point of view this scam is particularly upsetting because these tricksters lift images from our listing advertisements (usually they select great looking newer homes) and use them to further their scheme. Potential tenants who are (rightfully) suspicious and do a little fact checking, keep our phones ringing asking whether the home is for sale or for rent. Beware and remember that if it sounds to be good, it probably is. Renting property through a licensed (and reputable) property management company is always a safer bet.

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