Philadelphia (WPVI) — Consumer alert for those looking to rent a home.
The FBI warns that real estate and rental fraud has increased significantly in recent years. Across the country in 2021, the American consumer lost more than $350 million of his. This is a 64% increase over the previous year.
“We were happy.
Two friends fell in love with a property for rent on Facebook Marketplace.
“It looked legit, and so did Facebook buyers,” said Kota Labs of South Philadelphia.
The listing was for $2,000 four bedrooms in Manayunk. So Hombach got in touch about it.
“So the marketplace was my wife’s account—a woman’s account—and it was her husband who reached out to me,” she said.
Hombach said the man told her he couldn’t do a walkthrough of the property for another week because the current tenant was still there. But he sent her the video.
“So I was convinced it was,” she said.
Hombach sent money to the purported landlord through Zelle for credit checks. $150 total for both her and Loves.
“And a few hours later he said you were approved and the credit check came back,” Hombach said.
Hombach was then told to send a security deposit to remove the listing from Facebook.
“So I sent him $500,” she said.
“When I looked into this particular deal, it was full of red flags,” said Trent Pettus. Temple University Real Estate Institute.
Pettus said they were told they couldn’t see the property in person, pressured them to pay immediately, risked losing the deal, and had to send money via payment apps or wire transfers, or they were forced to pay more than the market. Also includes low rent.
“I also thought it was strange that it happened so quickly,” he said. “They hadn’t verified employment. They hadn’t verified income.”
“This will probably be done in two or three days, not one day,” he added.
Another red flag? The person who posted on Facebook was not the person Hombach spoke to and was instructed to send the money to yet another name.
“It’s definitely a red flag when you don’t even know who you’re talking to,” Pettus said.
Pettus advises consumers to do their homework.
“go to public records, pull it up and see who owns this property and ask for proof. If you want to communicate online, show me your ID.”
If you rent a property remotely, Pettus recommends using Zoom or FaceTime to meet with your landlord.
“Whether you rent or buy, Google the address,” he said. “The first thing I noticed was a picture of the house. On Facebook it says it was a ranch style home. It’s a residence.”
Honbach and Loves finally went to the house and the door was answered by the real owner.
“She said, ‘This is not for rent. I’ve lived here for years, but you’re not the first to walk around this place,'” Hombach said.
In this case, the red flags were legal, but the list was not. Everything was a scam.
“I was sad, really sad,” Loves said.
Another thing, especially if you need to rent a property out of sight, use a reputable licensed real estate broker or an established property management company with a fixed brick-and-mortar office.
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