As rents, home prices, and inflation surge in today’s highly competitive real estate market, the FBI Boston Division is warning the public about the risk of rental scams, and the need to be cautious when posting and responding to rental properties and real-estate online.

How to avoid being victimized:

  • Do not wire funds to people you do not know.
  • Do not put money towards a house or apartment you have not seen.
  • Confirm the identity of the landlord by researching public records to find out who owns the property you are seeking to rent or purchase.
  • Do not fill out applications online until you have met directly with the property manager.
  • Know local rental prices.
  • Look for online reviews, references, and testimonials from past inhabitants.
  • Be wary if a potential tenant wants to rent property sight unseen.
  • Be wary if a potential renter says they are out of town and will send you a cashiers’ check.
  • Be wary if a potential landlord says he is out of the country and wants the rent sent to a foreign account.
  • Do not accept overpayment for properties. If you receive a check for more than the specified amount, return it. Do not deposit it.

If you find yourself the target or victim of a rental scam, stop all contact immediately, and if you have already sent money, it is extremely important to report any transfer of funds to your financial institution and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Read more on the FBI site.

Don’t fall victim to rental scams, Provo, Utah police warn.

“Many times, the home or apartment is already rented out and being lived in and the occupants can verify if the home/apartment is up for rent,” Provo Police Sgt. Nick Patterson said.

The scammer duplicates postings from legitimate real estate websites and reposts these ads, after altering them. Often, the scammers use the broker’s real name to create a fake email, which gives the fraud more legitimacy.

He also warns of scammers who request money via Venmo or other online transactions. When the money is sent privately as opposed to it being marked as a “business transaction,” companies like Venmo assume the sender knows who the money is being sent to, and will not issue a refund, Patterson said.

Other tips from Sgt. Patterson:

  • If the person claims they will mail the key to them after the payments goes through, it is 100% a scam. I have not worked on a single case where this was not fraudulent.
  • Anytime someone requests money be sent via gift card, it is a scam. The money from gift cards is immediately removed and transferred to other accounts and usually out of the country where we have no jurisdiction to continue our investigation. The money is lost forever.
  • Before renting any home, I would check Google or land records and verify the address and owner information. If the property is for rent, Google the company and call them from the number from a good search. Don’t rely on the number listed in the listing, go directly to the rental company website.