As a landlord, you probably advertise your property online without a second thought. Posting listings on Craigslist, Rentals.com and other sites gives you an opportunity to place your rental in front of thousands of people already looking for a place to live. But it also makes it easier for the con artists to trick your potential tenants.
At Bay Property Management Group, we too utilize online resources to market your property. However, we also monitor the listings to make sure they haven’t been compromised.
Many people fall for this scam
One of the most common rental scams involves copying of a legitimate property listing by a scammer who then lowers the price and poses as a real property owner attempting to collect security deposit and rent for the first month. The crook typically assumes the real owner’s identity, but provides his own contact information, usually just the email address. Tenants who fail to do their research often end up as victims of this scam.
How to protect yourself, your property and your tenants
There is no sure way to prevent con artists from trying to use your listing. And the more desirable your property is, the easier it will be for the scammers to find gullible tenants. Yes, you could completely stop advertising, but this is a drastic decision that will hurt your income. As a Baltimore property management company, we are happy to share a few tips on how to avoid getting involved in a scam.
Periodically look up your property descriptions
Use search engines to find if anyone copied your property description word for word. To do this, type “phrase from your description” in a search bar keeping the quotation marks. This search parameter will produce only exact word-for-word matches, so if you find your property listed on an unfamiliar website with an unusually low pricing, ring alarm.
Additionally, in case the tricky scammer fully or partially paraphrased your listing, you could use one of the online tools that check for plagiarism. They will let you know if your listing has been copied and can even pinpoint the location of the copied text.
Don’t forget to occasionally check Craigslist, one of the go-to places for apartment hunters. Because it’s free and densely populated, it’s also a mecca for rental property scammers. Browse through the listings in your area to make sure no one copied yours.
Watermark your photos
If you are including photos with your listings, watermark them to decrease the likelihood that they will get re-posted somewhere else. Instead of your name (that a con artist can easily hijack), watermark with your phone number, Linkedin account, Facebook page or other piece of personal information that only you have access to. You don’t have to be versed in photo editing or own special software to watermark your photos; just use one of the available online tools for creating watermarks.
Don’t ignore suspicious behavior
Sometimes, a potential tenant might call or email you about your listing mentioning a lower price than listed. No big deal, right? Right. But don’t dismiss it assuming they got confused. They might have come across a fraudulent copy of your listing, but through research found your real contact information. Investigate such “misunderstandings” and other suspicious behavior to make sure it wasn’t caused by a con.
So, what if you find someone using your property listings to scam people? There are quite a few things you could do to protect your property listing and prevent unsuspecting tenants from becoming victims of the scam.
– Inform the administration of the website that is hosting the fake listing. Request to
– Take a screenshot of the fake listing and share it on your social media accounts and/or website warning your current and potential tenants.take it down and possibly ban or penalize the user who posted it.
– File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center
– If a con artist left his email address, report it to the corresponding email service provider.
– File a complaint with the FTC
– Contact local authorities
Don’t expect the authorities to take immediate action, because they most likely receive thousands of similar complaints. However, do your part by monitoring your listings and reporting any suspicious activity. And if this looks like another task you don’t have the time for, let us know and we’ll help you manage your Baltimore property.