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Recognizing potential rental scams

Scammers are all too familiar with the feelings of excitement and enthusiasm Santa Cruz residents share when entering into the housing market. Thus, it is important that those searching for a home or rental unit be vigilant in researching the opportunities that present themselves to them. Oftentimes, these "opportunities" are instead veiled schemes that can rob people of the funds available in their housing budgets. 

For many looking for their dream homes, the best opportunity to secure them may come through renting. Renting is often presented as a low-risk, high-reward alternative to purchasing a home (given that a renter does not have to assume many of the responsibilities of ownership). Yet prospective renters are at risk of falling into rental scams. According to Forbes Magazine, such schemes can involve one stealing another's listing and advertising it as his or her own on another site. Then, posing as an agent or broker, he or she asks for up-front security deposits or fees and then makes off with the money. Another type of such scams include the owner of an actual property creating renter demand by telling people that many others want to move in and then collecting information from multiple parties (along with application fees) without ever intending to rent the property. 

The Federal Trade Commission lists the following as signs that might be indicative of a potential rental scams: 

  • Asking potential renters to wire money (either directly to the scammer or a third party posing as his or her lawyer or agent)
  • Asking for a security deposit prior to signing a lease agreement
  • Rental agents refusing to meet with interested renters because they are out of the country 

Suspicions of rental scams should be reported to local law enforcement authorities as well as the FTC. 

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