Rental Scam Rip-offs Hit Hundreds of Consumers Each Year, Warns Better Business Bureau

CHICAGO, IL – Whether it’s a place to live, office space or a vacation destination, scammers like to take advantage of renters. Individuals can lose a few hundred dollars to thousands when they wire money for a security deposit, or send money overseas to a person they don’t know. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to watch out for the signs of common rental scams and to do careful research on the property before sending landlords money.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the two most popular types of rental scams include hijacked ads and phantom rentals. With hijacked ads, some scammers hijack an actual rental or real estate listing by changing the email address or other contact information, then placing the modified ad on another site. The altered ad may even use the name of the person who posted the original ad. With phantom rentals, rip-off artists make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist, and try to lure unsuspecting people in with the promise of low rent or great amenities.

Adrian Wall of Schaumburg, IL says, “I rented the office space and all utilities were supposed to be included. There was no heat in the office, there weren’t even heating vents. They added extra fees and charges every month for copy and fax service and other things that I did not even use. I complained and they threatened to add damages to my bill.”

“With the cost of housing or leasing consumers are looking for the best deal. It becomes a problem for them when they fail to research the people they are dealing with,” says Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Always check the rental company’s rating with the BBB and remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

The BBB offers the following tips when looking for rental properties:

* Check with the state assessor’s office to determine who owns the property.

* Google the address and see if the property shows up on any real estate website for rent or for sale. If a property that was advertised for rent shows up for sale on another site, there may be a serious problem. Contact the real estate company and confirm the listing is legitimate.

* Contact the neighbors of the property you are planning on renting. Ask them about the owner and status of the property. Is it for sale? Or rent? Or in foreclosure?

* Look for BBB Accredited Businesses for these transactions.

* Check out the businesses review and record with the BBB.

* Ensure all assertions and promises are backed up in writing.

* Be cautious of any situation that seems suspicious.

For more information, visit www.bbb.org, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.