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Common Michigan Rental Scams

By Tabitha Naylor

Real estate rental scams are just one more way scammers have found to trick people out of their money or steal their identity. The most common place you will find bogus rental ads is on Craigslist. The number of these scam ads just continues to increase. Often times these scammers will search real rental listings and use photos or information from other rental advertisements with no actual address other than a city.

One of the best ways to identify a scam rental property ad is if you get a request at some point in the emails between you and the "owner" that requests you to send a security deposit or first months deposit via Western Union, moneygram or another wire service.

Another tipoff that a listing may be a scam is the lack of a street address. The owner may say they have had vandal problems and they no longer give out the address. Any reputable owner will provide the street address.

Most scam listings sound too good to be true. Many will say they pay all utilities and maintain the lawn etc. all included in the rental price. Many will make reference to the fact poor credit is not an issue.

Another tactic these scam rental ads use is to say you need to complete a form so they can do a credit check. This is how they obtain your personal information to steal your identity. Many of these scams will refer to a middle person saying that the owner is out of the country, or sick and a friend or relative is renting the property for them.

Other warnings signs include ads that require an email only contact. You can't tell there's a problem from the initial email address (often the blind email address Craigslist offers) until you respond. Once you write the "owner" the return email address will be some name with tons of nonsensical letters like Quepkydixororr.

Lastly, the rental price and the amenities will all be too good to be true. Generally, scammers will post very low rental prices for the type of property they are listing.

There is another form of this scam as well. That is the overzealous renter. Someone will contact you from abroad. They will say they are moving to the country or visiting for several months and want to rent your property. Then they will send a check or money order for more than you requested. You will receive an email saying they realized they overpaid and it has caused them a problem and they will request you send back the overpayment. The problem is the check or money they sent you is no good. So, they get your money and you are out whatever portion you refunded in good faith.

The best way to protect yourself from real estate scams is to use a rental company or real estate agency. When you choose to rent over the internet be exceedingly cautious. Ask for the exact address, try to meet the individual in person before you proceed with any exchange of money and be alert to the warning signs when you go through potential online postings.

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