It almost never fails. We list a property for rent and the phone starts ringing off the hook. Sounds like what we want, right? Except these callers are not happy when they hang up.
Rental scams in New Orleans have been around for years now. It used to be only properties that were listed on Craigslist, but with the large number of places people can find rentals, it’s become an even bigger problem.
Here’s what happens
We list a house for rent (or even for sale). Take pretty pictures, post that sign in the front yard, and begin marketing the heck out of it.
Then, some scummy scammer grabs all of the photos from Zillow or Realtor.com or some other site. Right-click > Save Image is pretty darned easy.
The scammer then posts the property to Craigslist, complete with photos, often with an email that’s very, very, very close to a real agent’s email address, at an extremely reduced price.
When potential tenants call to see the place, there’s always a reason that they can’t meet you there and a reason they need the deposit real quick and another reason why you should just transfer the funds to them and then they will send you the keys (big RED FLAG, y’all).
The minute someone hands over their money, the scammer disappears, leaving the person without a place to live and without their deposit money. This has devastated some folks who are counting every penny to get moved into a new rental.
A true story
We listed a cute Broadmoor house for rent for $1,300 per month. Some scammer grabbed it, stole the photos, and then listed it on Craigslist for $800 per month. Fortunately, when the interested parties drove by the house, they saw our sign and called the office instead of the number listed on the ad. It’s no fun to explain to someone that the listing is a hoax and the actual rent is much more than they thought it would be. BUT, at least they didn’t hand over any money or personal information to this person, who likely isn’t even in New Orleans.
How to protect yourself
- Always, always, always meet someone in person at the property for a tour. If they can’t get you into the house, walk away.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for ID from the person showing you the house
- Look up the property on the parish assessors’ website to see if the person you contacted is actually the owner
- Don’t fill out an application with your personal information (hellooooo – identity theft, anyone?) until you are sure you’re dealing with a legitimate person
Of course, this is where we make our pitch. We help tenants find places every day. Working with a good local REALTOR helps keep you safe from scams.