Rental Scam Alert

Jul 15, 2015

The Sea Girt Police Department is currently investigating a series of summer home rental scams. In each of these incidents the victims located a home for rent on craiglist.com. The advertisement shows photographs of the home along with a list of amenities available. The victims communicated with the person who claimed to be a homeowner via e-mail. After reaching an agreement, an official looking invoice is e-mailed to the victim along with check in instructions and rules for the rental. They are then asked to make the required payments by wiring money into a bank account listed on the invoice. The victims arrive at the home at the agreed on check in date and time to find the home is not for rent. In one case the victim found an empty lot where the home was supposed to be. Thousands of dollars have been lost to this scam in Sea Girt just this summer.

The victims of previous scams are from New York, Virginia, and Massachusetts. The most recent advertisements for Sea Girt are believed to have been run on the Jersey Shore, North Jersey, New York City, and Long Island pages of Craigslist.

The scammer will often use real estate websites to locate homes which have recently sold in the area. They will download photographs of the homes along with the description from the original MLS listing. They will use this information to craft an advertisement for rental sharing or trading websites.
The true homeowners are not aware that their home is listed for rent. They are usually only made aware their home was listed for rent when the victim arrives at the home for the check-in or inspection.

Scams are a reality of shopping online. The Sea Girt Police Department would like to make sure visitors to the Jersey Shore do not fall victim to this scam.
Tips for avoiding a summer rental scam:

  • Most homeowners who rent their home seasonally will use a licensed real estate company to assist in the transaction. Whenever possible, home rentals should be conducted through a licensed realtor or through a professional property management company.
  • If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take the time to seek out comparable properties and see if the home you are interested in is priced close to similar homes in the area.
  • Most scams involve a request to wire funds directly to another bank account or use a wire service such as MoneyGram, Western Union or any other online money transfer service. Do not wire funds to anyone you have not met or know personally.
  • Be wary of long-distance landlord. Many of the scams come from outside of the United States or from areas far away from where the home is located.
  • Check the advertisement carefully for typos, grammatical errors, improper wording, or phases which appear out of context. These advertisements will often contain errors
  • Any request for your bank account information, social security number, or request you cell phone number in order to send a confirmation code or verification code are indications of a scam. Most homeowners or professional property managers will not request this information to be sent through e-mail.
  • Be aware of any person who will not communicate over the phone or will keep the conversation very short without much detail.

The person claims to be affiliated with Zillow, Craiglist or other website to help facilitate your rental.
If you suspect the home you are trying to rent is potentially involved in one of these scams, take some extra time to do you due diligence. A simple internet search on the address of the home you are trying to rent can provide a wealth of information. If the home has been rented before, you may be able to see reviews and other information about the home. If the home recently sold, you may be able to find the real estate company who facilitated the sale. The real estate agent may be able to assist you in determining if the home is really for rent. They may also assist you in getting in contact with the current homeowner which may be different than the person listed in the advertisement.
If you sent any money or bank account information over the internet, contact your bank institution immediately.

For more information on rental scams please see:

Federal Trade Commission

RentalScams.org

Anyone having information of a rental scam in Sea Girt is urged to contact the Sea Girt Police Department at 732-449-7300 ext. 432 or call Monmouth County Crime Stoppers at 800-671-4400. If you suspect you are the victim of a scam, please contact the local police department where the rental exists.