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Being in the middle of one of the biggest rental booms in New York City adds to the already intimidating and stressful process of apartment hunting. Because of this high demand, renters are not only jumping at “the perfect apartment,” but scams are quickly becoming popular. It is very important to keep your wits about you and to keep an eye out for these threats.
According to a Forbes article, 90 percent of people start their rental search online. In online scams, the con person will swipe a listing, re-post it on another site such as craigslist, and pose as the agent. Signs of this scam include little time actually spent in the listed apartment, a vague contract with no copies, keys handed over before the deposit and rent are paid, and cash being strongly preferred. These kinds of scams usually target 20-something year old women and those who find themselves in need of an apartment quickly.
Image via Flickr by Diana Susselman
In popular rental scams, money for the security deposit or broker fee will be asked for up front. The scammers will ask you to wire money to a friend in order to prove you have the funds. They will then pose as that friend and collect the money. Application fees for phony credit checks are another way that con artists take advantage of those who are in dire need of a great apartment deal.
In these scams, your real estate agent lists your home for sale on popular listing sites. Shortly after, your home is listed on different sites as a rental. These con artists dupe people into renting already-occupied homes and in more recent cases, offer an excuse about how a listing is currently unavailable to show. The miscreants proceed to offer a rent that no one can refuse and acquire the renter’s personal information including social security numbers and months’ worth of rent, making this a scam that greatly effects realtors.
Loan Modification Scams
Due to the recession, millions of Americans are facing foreclosure and high mortgage payments. One of the most popular schemes involves “agents” from the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) or Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) cold calling these Americans, collecting information, charging fees to modify loans, and suggesting that homeowners stop making payments. What makes these scams even more difficult to avoid is the fact that these fake companies have official looking websites and caller-ID numbers.
With the affordability of housing nearing a record high, many people are developing new interest in real estate investing. In these workshop-scam scenarios, self-proclaimed real estate experts will host several, pricy educational seminars claiming to give you vital information, tips, and even specific properties to invest in, all with the promise of huge returns. What makes matters worse is the fact that the signed paperwork for these classes lists that legal action can’t be taken against the purported “experts.”
While scams are scary, there are measures consumers can take to avoid them. Always remember to use a reputable broker, verify licenses, cross-check listings on multiple sites, avoid cash deposits, and most importantly, listen to your gut.