GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – If you have searched for an apartment or housing anytime in the last few years, you might know scammers often try to gain access to real rental listings and act like its their own.
But now that rental scam has reached a new level of deception, as scammers find sneaky ways to let you inside the home.
Michael Kirby, in Fountain Inn, has been looking for a home for his family of four for months, only to become a target for one of these sophisticated scams.
“When I looked at the pictures he sent me, 15 pictures of the home front and back, inside and out, nice, it was just what we wanted. And I said, ‘Man, I like this house.’ So I decided to go over there and look at it,” Kirby said.
And he did. He was able to walk right inside a house on Bittercrest Court in Simpsonville and show himself around because the scammers gave him the code to the house.
It is something only legitimate realtors like Jon Melton are supposed to be able to get.
“They’re starting to look more legit. It’s starting to become harder to tell is this real or is this not. Am I dealing with an owner or am I dealing with a property management company or am I dealing with a scammer because they have the code to be able to let you in,” said Jon Melton, realtor with The Haro Group of Keller Williams Historic District.
Melton said the scammers will steal photos and details from real listings and create their own on sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, which is how Kirby found the house.
“And when I went inside and looked at it when he gave me the code, I fell in love. And now, my dreams have just been shot down, because someone wants to scam someone like me, a hard-working person, out of money,” said Kirby.
REAL PROPERTY SEARCH
The best way to protect yourself is to find out who the real owners really are. Just Google “real property search” for the county of the listing, then type in the street address and it will show you the owners.
For instance this is the site for Greenville: https://www.greenvillecounty.org/appsas400/RealProperty/
- Below market rent prices
- Excuses not to meet up in person
- Payment request through apps or wire transfers.
Kirby said all those red flags inspired him to go back and call the number on the sign outside the house to double check.
When the bogus $1400 rent for the 4-bedroom house turned out to be more like $2000, Kirby may have been deflated, but he said he wasn’t surprised. He may have avoided this scam, but he did fall victim to a similar one four years ago.
“They actually had met with us and took the money and never returned. Had a receipt and all. I lost $1400,” said Kriby.
AVOIDING A SCAM
One way to avoid the rental scam is to call a licensed professional to show you the property instead of getting access alone. That way the property management company or real estate agent can make sure you have accurate information.
Also, be sure to search the address online to look for other listings of the same property so you can compare the rent prices.