I am sure you are well aware of the recent increase in fraudulent claims and Internet scams. It was only a matter of time before landlords would be affected. The United States Postal Inspector recently warned property owners to be cautious when answering prospective tenants who respond to online rental advertisements from overseas.
These scam artists will ask to pay the deposit with a cashier’s check, money order or some other form of paper tender; in many cases asking to pay several months in advance plus administrative fees. The scammers may also say it’s too complicated to send you the money directly, so they’ll arrange for someone in the United States to send you a check.
These above mentioned payments may look real, however, are in fact fake. Bank Tellers may even be fooled, as the checks are made to mislead. The companies names who appear on the check may be real, dummied up to fool even savvy investors. They may come in the form of phony cashiers checks, or may appear to be from legitimate business accounts.
Under federal law, banks must make deposited funds readily available, usually within one to five business days. However, this does not mean the check has cleared and the funds are available. Please be aware that it may take weeks for the check to bounce and for the forgery to be discovered.
The scammer will then ask the landlord to wire back part of the money, usually the “administrative fee or costs” or ask that the entire amount be returned by giving a reason that they may not take possession of the unit. After the landlord returns some or all of the money, the check is then found to be fraudulent. These con-artists are most often from foreign countries and very hard to track down. This scam has also taken place via the telephone.
Here are some tips to steer clear of these scammers:
- Always request a face to face meeting with any prospective tenant.
- Upon accepting any tender, unless cash; make sure that you wait for the check to clear and allow an extra 10 days.
- Conduct thorough background checks.
- “If it seems too good to be true, it is!