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The Real Deal: Rental Scams on the Rise
BALLSTON SPA - If you're looking for a new place to live, be on the lookout for rental scammers looking to steal your money and personal information. Scammers are high jacking legitimate real estate listings and using them as a front to try and rip you off.
Wendy Szady wants to move so she went to Trulia.com to see what rentals are available locally. She found a listing for a home in Ballston Spa that seemed perfect, it had the number of bedrooms and amenities she was looking for and the price seemed reasonable. She emailed the contact on the listing and got a response right away., "I got a prompt reply, via email saying this is the property, this is my house, this is how much I'm renting it for, it's a great area, what have you," Szady says. There was just one request in the email that threw up a red flag, "down at the bottom of the paragraph it actually said, well, what's your credit score and how long are you planning on renting for? Once you tell them what your credit score is, probably after that they'll send you an application saying fill this out and put in your social security number and then it goes from there," she tells CBS6. She was so suspicious, she decided to search the address in Google, "that's when I found a similar ad for the same property but under a different owners name," she says.
The real owner of the property had posted a rental listing on another website with a description of the property and several pictures of the inside and outside of the house; he had also listed it for a totally different price than the other post. A scammer had ripped off all the information in the original listing and used it to create his own posting on Trulia.com. A spokeswoman for Trulia tells CBS6, "We take fraud very seriously and have several processes in place to eliminate fraud, but unfortunately, this is an industry-wide problem that doesnt have an easy solution. So while we are working hard to prevent scrams from ever being displayed, some fraudulent listings do unfortunately make it through our filters."
In order to "outsmart the scammers" Trulia.com says it needs to keep the specifics of some of its security initiatives confidential but some of the public initiatives include, a team dedicated only to reviewing rental properties and double checking listing feeds and an automated algorithm that scores listings based on historical data and removes those most likely to be fraudulent.
As companies work to try and weed out scammers, renters need to do their own homework on any listing that you're interested in. If you can't see the place and meet a landlord or property manager before you provide any money or personal information, move on. "You've got to be extra careful, no matter if it is reputable site or not, you've got to be your own advocate, do your homework and never release any personal information, Szady warns. She also decided to send one more email to that scammer who wasted her time, "I told him to get a real job and stop being such a scumbag, truthfully... there are real jobs out there, you can make a decent wage and you don't have to take people for granted," she says.