By Guest Contributor

Across the nation, amid rising rental costs, communities are seeing increased rental scams. The Franklin Police Department stated yesterday that their Major Crimes Unit has been investigating multiple cases where victims sent money to scammers posing as property owners. In this instance, the fake rental listing was posted on Facebook Marketplace. In other cases, scammers steal real rental listings and repost them with their contact information.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a few tips to avoid rental listing scams:

  • Do some research. Search online for the management company name plus words like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” If you find bad reviews, you may want to look elsewhere.
  • Verify who and what. Call the number on the management company’s website — not the one in the listing — to make sure the listing agent works there. Check to see if the home’s address is on the company’s website. If it isn’t, it may be a scam.
  • Look at the property before you sign or pay. Visit the property in person or watch a video or virtual tour. If you go in person, ask the rental agent for a business card issued by the company that owns or manages the property, and check the agent’s ID to be sure it matches the records. Dealing with a private landlord? Search city or county tax assessment websites to learn who owns a property, then check the landlord’s ID to be sure it matches the records. If you can’t get to the property in person, ask someone you trust to go and make sure it’s for rent, and that it matches what was advertised.
  • Pay by credit card — it’s the safest way. Scammers insist that you pay in ways that make it hard to get your money back – like wire transfers, cash, cryptocurrency, or payment apps like CashApp, Venmo or Zelle. Even if they say the money is refundable, you’re not likely to ever get it back.
  • Consider the price of the rental. If the rent is much lower than most rents in the area, it could be a sign of a scam. And if anyone pressures you to make a decision quickly to get a great deal, walk away.
  • Never give personal or financial information to anyone who contacts you and claims to be working with the owner or rental company. Instead, use the contact information you have and contact the owner or company.