Recent Rental Real Estate Scams

The old shall become new again…As the housing crisis deepens and spreads across the country, vacant properties are proving a potent lure for criminals. That seems to be the case as scammers are coming out of the woodwork and apparently out of even more unsavory venues to prey, once again, using their same old tricks, on the helpless, the ignorant and the desperate.

Some of these scams are so diabolical almost no one would be able to avoid getting trapped. Here’s one: a Mr. Pradeep Singh rents out a vacant house in Covina requesting the usual deposit and the first month’s rent. Problem is…he’s rented out the same house more than 30 times! According to reports, he’s made more than $120,000 using this tried-and-true technique for extracting money from the unsuspecting. Police say he’s still at large. Not doubt he’s moved onto greener pastures…Santa Monica? Malibu? Newport? Good riddance to you wherever you are…

Usually, the scammer in this oldie-but-goldie finds a vacant property, advertises it “For Rent”, then lures in unsuspecting would-be renters with a specially good rent. The twist on this one comes with the additional info that Mr Singh actually owns the property, allegedly located at 5541 Calera Avenue.

Where do scammers usually find their victims? Why Craigslist and similar free ad venues, previously extolled here, or perhaps on the Multiple Listing Service, which also lists rental properties. Another blogger, no friend of Craigslist, Trench Reynolds, has made it his business to catch these and similar opportunities for crime presented by free ads in his Craigscrimelist.org.

These reports are now coming from all over the country and renters had better be careful before handing over their dough. It’s not easy to protect yourself. How do you know if the scammer really owns the property? Ask a Realtor with access to county records. Or, call the county assessor. Last year, that may have seemed a bit paranoid, but, not now, I guess.

How to protect yourself from a Mr. Singh who actually owns the property? That is a really difficult one because he would be able to show you the house, would have a key and all normal aqppurtenances. Maybe just remember that if it seems like too good a deal, it probably is…

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