How the scam works:
After weeks of searching for a new property to move to, you find a place online. Calling the number, the property agent answers and arranges to meet you there. You're on your way and he calls you and tells you his car broke down and he won't be able to make it. "Don't worry, though. The landlord will be there to show you around."
The agent mentions that he can even negotiate a lower price than what the landlord will give you, so speak to him afterwards, rather than signing a lease right away.
You get there and find several other people interested in renting the place. The landlord offers a price, but you still want to negotiate a better deal and call the agent back. You work out a deal you're happy with and wait for him to confirm with the landlord. He calls you back shortly after and tells you the price is okay - all you have to do is wire him the money for the first two months and you're all set.
You rent a truck, pack up - but on moving day, you show up to find someone else moving in. It turns out, the agent isn't an agent at all; he just found the property online and reposted it with his own contact information. That’s how you called him in the first place. He sends several people at a time to generate a sense of urgency for the potential renters. Kiss whatever money you wired to him goodbye.
How to avoid:
When there is a third party involved (i.e. the agent) always make sure everyone is aware of the situation. Tell the landlord you've been dealing with an agent and see if it's something he does regularly.
On the other hand, if you are from the United States you might might want to subscribe to RealtyTrac, to keep yourself out of trouble and educated about the industry. RealtyTrac is a real estate information company that publishes over 1 Million properties from nearly 2,500 counties nationwide, and is the foreclosure data provider to Yahoo! Real Estate and The Wall Street Journal’s Real Estate Journal. It has more than 1,000,000 current foreclosure and pre-foreclosure properties, daily e-mail alerts and property updates, 24/7 Support Center and educational tools, and a wide range of property valuation, transfer and title reports. They even have a 7-day free trial, worth checking it out. You can access RealtyTrac's website HERE.
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