MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Rental scams are one of the many that the Better Business Bureau has been seeing more of these days.
Tech-savvy crooks will persuade unsuspecting renters to your home while the bad guys make off with their cash and leave you to sort things out.
It seems so realistic that if you don't watch out, you can find yourself being lured into paying thousands of dollars on a property that is not actually available.
"It doesn't matter how smart you are, how well trained you are, how internet savvy you are ... you can fall for a scam like this and there's really not a lot you can do afterward. It's a crime." BBB Spokesperson Daniel Irwin said.
He added that here in the Mid-South, 1 in 17 people report they've been scammed after the fact.
So far in 2022, there have been 38 reports of this rental scam involving fake listings. More than $45,000 was lost to consumers in Memphis.
There were also more than 50 reports in 2021. Irwin said so far they're on track to break last year's record.
"Someone who worked in law enforcement and his very pregnant wife fell for this scam and they lost $3,500," Irwin explained.
Extensive research is key.
Before putting any money down, know what the cost of rent is in the area, visit the property for anything that may seem out of the norm, like having a for sale sign when it appears to be for rent online and ask the landlord to send a copy of their photo ID.
Irwin also recommended that you talk to the landlord on the phone to make sure the person at least sounds legit.
"People never really talk to the person and that is by design cause so many of these scams are perpetrated overseas," he said.
You should also call or search online through the Shelby County Property Accessor's Office for the ownership details and the landlord's contact. Another thing to do is ask detailed questions that may help you point out the red flags faster.
Irwin said you should be on the lookout for any scammer grammar on the lease.
"It's usually written by someone who doesn't speak English as a native language, so it's not necessarily grammar errors, but it's typically worded in ways that we don't word things," Irwin explained.
Lastly, you should be careful of the third-party sites with listings because they are not vetted, which is even more of a reason to do your research.
You should also know that it's a scam if the person asks you to wire money, pay with gift cards, or even use Bitcoin.