Corporate Rental Fraud Protection

Things to know – thought you might find this interesting – you can also learn more in the Corporate Housing Handbook and by reviewing the CHBO Blog Archives – Kimberly

Be Ever Vigilant for Insidious Real Estate “Phishing” Scams

The Internet Crime Complaint Center reported 14,432 scam cases involving Real Estate Rental in 2012. Accumulated losses were above $15.4 million. These are only the ones reported by the victims; many of the wretches are too embarrassed to admit they were hoodwinked. On the sunny side, other premeditated targets were either lucky or savvy enough to see the crooks coming and avert the threat. You, too, can become aware of scammers, if you know what to look for. Below are some corporate rental fraud protection tips:

The Altruistic Missionary Hoax

This “not-so-classic” classified swindle starts when the hooligan copies a legitimate ad from a classified advertising website, altered to redirect responses to himself. When you inquire about the details, the shady character purports she and her husband are the owners and they are doing missionary work in Cameroon or some other foreign country. Hence, they need to rent out the property for X number of months. You admire the owners’ altruistic endeavors and decide to trust them. You’re hooked. The owners thereupon ask you to send money to the foreign country. To reveal the deal as a fraud, as the FBI’s website suggests, simply insist on looking inside the house and demand to speak to previous tenants, or in this case, request documentation of their affiliation with the missionary organization.

A Counterfeit Check for a Counterfeit Deal

You have a property listed for rent on the internet. The villain, who identifies himself as a prospective renter, responds and you strike a deal. He sends you a check for the deposit including first and last months’ rent. The day you deposit the check, the malfeasant contacts you, says the check was for double the amount required and asks you to remit a check back to him for the overage amount. You realize the flimflammer might just back out of the rental contract (he has 3 days to do so under Consumers’ Right to Rescind Laws, according to AttorneyGeneral.gov), and then indeed asks you to refund the money. You look at your account online and see that you have full access to the funds. You mistakenly believe his check cleared, and you immediately send your check. Three days later, you receive a notice from the bank that the miscreant’s check is counterfeit. Of course, the bank holds you responsible for the loss.

Protection From Future Phishing Scams

Always allow five to seven days before presuming the check is good and do not disburse any part of the check amount until then, according to FBI.gov. Additionally, stipulate in the lease agreement that the 3-day Rescission period starts the day the lessor signs the contract. The Federal ROR and most State ROR Laws do not count weekends or holidays as part of the waiting period, as the FBI website explains. Go to your state website and search for contract “cooling-off-period” or “consumer right to cancel” for details. Additionally, you might want to investigate signing up with an identity protection service, such as LifeLock.com, to help with protection from phishing scams. Identity protection for your livelihood is like having having anti-virus software for your computer.

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