Avoiding Scams and Fraud

Consumer Alert Update: February 1, 2011

Rentals.com has seen an increase in fraudulent credit card transactions. Rentals.com is presently taking additional steps to ensure that your private credit card information is secure and private. You may notice that we now require additional steps when entering your credit card information. This is to ensure that the authorized person on the credit card is placing the advertisement(s).

While the majority of listings on Rentals.com are legitimate, please be aware that certain individuals post property rental listings on Rentals.com to scam potential renters. The following information has been provided to provide tips on recognizing scams.

Tips for Renters

  • Research online. You should research and compare rental property content against other sites. Put the property address of interest into search engines and see what comes up. Do the contact numbers and e-mails match? If you’re local, you should drive by the house and compare the contact phone number to the number found on the site. You can also verify who owns a property by going to that county’s Web site under the assessor’s page and putting in the address. It should pull up the name of the legal homeowner.
  • If it is too good to be true it probably is. If the rent is too low for the area it could be an early indication that the price is fake.
  • Think before you send any personal or financial information to a third party. Do not send any personal or financial information to a third party unless you or someone you trust has seen a rental property in person. Often times, if you visit a property in person, you will also be able to meet the owner, landlord or property manager. Ask to see their driver license when meeting them. This eliminates 99% of scams.
  • Deal locally and in person. Be smart about meeting in person as well. Pick a public place, during the day and bring someone with you.
  • Never put a deposit down on a property if you or someone else in your circle has not seen it. When you reply to a rental listing, you will be asked to send a deposit. Do not send any money without first viewing the rental property and if possible meet the landlord in person with a friend or relative. Never wire funds via Western Union, MoneyGram or any other wire service.
  • Communicate via e-mail vs. instant messenger and send e-mails confirming conversations via phone. E-mail trails provide proof to authorities if you need it.

Tips for Landlords and Property Managers

  • Keep an eye on free listing sites. After you (or your Realtor) place an ad in the local paper, advertise online or post information on the Internet’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS) monitor other Web sites to see if your ad is posted again. Continue to use search engines to see if your property is being advertised by someone other than yourself.
  • Sign-up for free alerts. You can sign-up for free Google Alerts, which will e-mail you every time your property address is placed on another site.
  • Meet potential renters in person. Always meet potential renters in person whenever possible and ask to see their driver license.
  • Do not accept cash or cashier checks greater than the amount you are asking for. A potential tenant may overpay you a large sum of money in the form of a cashier’s check, and ask for the difference back. Fake cashier checks and money orders are common, and banks will cash them and then hold you responsible when the fake is discovered weeks later.

Information about “Check Overpayment” Scams

The following is an article from the FTC regarding cashier’s check overpayment:
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2004/12/checkoverpayment.htm

If you have been a victim of check overpayments you can file a complaint with the FTC:
https://rn.ftc.gov/pls/dod/wsolcq$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01

Information about Fraudulent Cashier’s Checks

Please be warned that fraudulent cashier’s checks are not limited to Foreign Country scams (Nigeria, India, etc.), but are used in a variety of transactions. Victims of a cashier’s check scam should contact their local law enforcement agency. Victims of the Nigerian cashier’s check scam should also contact their local Secret Service Field Office by phone.

Dealing with Cashier’s Checks

  • Never accept a cashier’s check for an amount greater than what you requested.
  • Call the bank that issued the cashier’s check when you receive it. Do not rely on the phone number that the buyer gives you. Locate the bank’s number from a reliable source, such as a phone book.
  • Verify information. When calling a bank, verify the check number, the name of the person to whom the check was issued, and the amount of the check. Be sure to wait until you can verify the authenticity of the check prior to taking any further steps. Sometimes scammers wait to give you a check on the weekend or when banks are closed so that the check cannot be verified right away.

Other Courses of Action

For more information on protecting your credit, please visit the Federal Trade Commission Web site. Or if your personal information has been compromised visit the FTC Consumer Alert.

The United States Secret Service continues to be tasked as the primary U.S. law enforcement agency in dealing with Advance Fee Fraud (419) matters. U.S. Citizens or Residents with no financial loss may email 419er documents to the United States Secret Service at 419.fcd@usss.treas.gov where they are archived for future datamining. Only No Loss reports are to be sent to this e-mail address. Due to the sheer volume of materials received, USSS does not respond to submissions to this address.

United States Citizens and Residents who have suffered a financial loss are instructed to contact the nearest Field Office of the United States Secret Service (USSS) by telephone. You may also file a Financial Loss complaint online with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). This organization is a partnership of the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Contact Us

Rentals.com remains dedicated to protecting your personal and credit card information. If you have questions or concerns, please e-mail us at Privacy@Primedia.com or call our Customer Service Center at 1-888-501-7368.

This page was last updated on February 1, 2011