FBI Warns Rental Scams Are Skyrocketing Right Now

(PresidentialHill.com)- The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued new warnings this week regarding a large increase in the number of scams that are being connected to the real estate and rental markets.

The FBI’s office in Boston issued the warning earlier this week, focusing on the huge impact it’s having in the New England region, though it’s happening across the country as well.

As the FBI Boston Division’s special agent in charge, Joseph Bonavolonta said in a release:

“We have seen a significant increase in the amount of money being lost by people who are desperate for a good deal. Scammers are cashing in on renters who need to act quickly for fear of missing out, and it’s costing consumers thousands of dollars, and in some cases, leaving them stranded.

“We are asking everyone to exercise caution, especially over the next few months, as folks look to book last minute summer getaways.”

There are two different types of scams that are being conducted for rentals, according to the FBI.

The first deals with the victim being a property owner who has their property listed for rent. An interested party then contacts them, and the two agree on a price for the rental. Then, the renter — who is the scammer — will send a check for the deposit to the owner of the property.

The renter will either write the check for above the required amount and they then ask for the remainder to be sent back to them, or they write the check for the right amount but then back out and ask for a refund.

Because banks typically don’t hold funds, the owner of the property who deposited the check thinks the check has completed cleared. Eventually, the bank figures out the check is counterfeit, and the owner of the property is responsible for what the bank loses — since they’ve taken the money out of their account already.

The second scam works in reverse. The scammer is the “owner” of a property that is listed for rent online. The listing will end up just being a duplicate from another real estate website, though, and they report those ads after they alter them.

The victim in this case is the renter, who will reach out to the scammer for information about renting what they think is a legitimate property. They scammer will tell them they can’t show the victim the property until they make a payment, due to them not being in town.

The victim will then send money to who they believe the owner of the property is. But, then, all of a sudden, the property will no longer be for rent.

According to the FBI, nearly 12,000 people across the country reported losing more than $350 million because of similar rental scams in 2021. That represented an increase of 64% from 2020.

The FBI Boston division reported that 415 victims lost more than $13 million from these scams, which was an increase of 27% year-over-year. Their division covers Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.