While Craigslist and other online sites can be a valuable asset for locating tenants, it’s helpful to proceed with caution. Remember, not all online scams are directed at potential tenants. Property management companies can also find themselves the target of scammers in a variety of ways. If you typically post detailed rental information on Craigslist in a search for tenants, or even have a website that provides property information and photos, be aware that your property management company can quickly become a scamming victim. How is this done? Scammers will copy photos and other information from legitimate rental websites, lower the monthly rent, add a contact phone number and email, and collect multiple security deposits along the way. Others scammers will offer a quick deposit to hold a property, “accidentally” overpaying and requesting a refund. This is a classic scam, and many have been taken in by the quality of the counterfeit money orders and cashier’s check they’ve received.
Be on the lookout for anything that doesn’t seem right or looks suspicious.The most popular target for scammers is the single family home that is being managed. Also, keep information clear but brief about current homes for rent. Posting photos is a great marketing tool, but too much information, such as a complete street addresses and detailed photos can make the property a prime target for scammers who run a listing of their own and collect multiple security deposits from unwitting applicants all day.
We use our email everyday for communication but be careful here too. Communicating via email is a great tool for initial contact but after that collect additional information and make an appointment to show the property. Make sure you tell a coworker or family member where you are going and what time or take someone with you to meet the prospect. Or have the applicant come to your office before showing a home, where you can collect additional information and see the prospect for yourself. And wait until a security deposit clears before issuing keys.
By keeping these simple ideas in mind, you can avoid scammers. If you find yourself a victim, reporting and exposing the scammers will help make and keep popular rental sites like Craigslist a legitimate source for property managers and renters alike.