The recent problems in the real estate market have led to some identity theft issues. Mainly, these involve the impersonation of home owner. In some areas of the country, one can find a number of empty, neglected residences. Here, you can also find those who have managed to secure personal information of the owners. By doing so, these scammers can trick potential house renters into thinking that they have the authority to rent those homes.
This is made possible by the fact that a home owned by a bank may sometimes take years to sell. These foreclosures driven by the recession become targets for scammers. In one case, an individual “rented” a house for 15 months before finding out that his “landlord” was a fraud. In many cases, a criminal may obtain entry by breaking into a lock box. They can also get information on the actual home owner and forge identification. This way, if the victim looks up any information on the residence, they will see the name on the forged document. The scammers may even change the locks on the home. This way the real owner or a representative may be unable to enter the home.
A Coronado, California resident was recently involved in an identity theft rental scam. Lorraine Eden Hermann typically rents her condo when she goes out of town. She doesn’t use Craigslist to do this. However, she discovered that someone else used that website to “rent” out her condo. This happened when three renters saw the ad in Craigslist asking for rental money to be wired. The ad stated that the cost for the condo was $100 per night. Hermann told authorities that someone had stolen her personal information in order to set up the scam.
More commonly, scammers just copy a listing for rentals or sales and reword them with their own contact information. But in more sophisticated scams, identity fraud is involved. If the criminals are able to break into the home, they will show the potential clients the property. If this isn’t feasible, they will say that they are currently out of the country. This will cover for the fact that they can’t show you the home. Fake keys may even be exchanged for a rental deposit.
Once a scammer rents a home, they may even show it to other potential renters. While doing this, they can collect first and last month fees along with a security deposit. The applications that the victims fill out will also provide a wealth of personal and financial information. This information can be used for additional identity theft.
In many cases, scams that target owners are variations of Nigerian advance payment scams. This involves convincing an owner to send an electronic payment to the scammer. Here, the criminal tells a very convincing tale as to how the payment will be made by a relative, sponsor, etc. The owner will then receive a check for more than the cost of the rental. The scammer then requests that the extra funds be sent to the “renter”. Of course, the original check will bounce and the owner will lose the money that they wired.
If you are a renter or an owner, there are some things you can do to prevent being scammed:
• Always confirm the identity of the person you are dealing with. This includes a notarized confirmation of name and address. For renters, the country register can confirm property ownership.
• Verify the information that you have in order to prevent an identity theft scam.
• Determine average rental prices in the area that you wish to live. Beware of unrealistic “bargains”.
• Never lease or rent a home without seeing it first.
• Never wire money to a stranger and never make a payment prior to determining ownership.
• If you are a homeowner who is not residing on the property, check the home on a regular basis.
• When renting, you may wish to consider using a reliable rental agency. If not, then just be more cautious when dealing with private rentals.