Beware the Pirates!

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I hate to keep harping on you all, but it’s school time and you’re desperately still looking for a place to rent, right? Once again the Department of Commerce has sent out a media alert, ‘Consumer Protection warns of fake rental scheme targeting real estate ads’. There are FAKE rental ads on Craigslist, KSL-beware the pirates! Yes indeed, there are scammers out there who go onto the interwebs, clip photos of homes for sale and paste them into phony ads. The Francine Giani, the Executive Director and soon to be Liquor Commissioner said recently, “Young people seeking rental properties need to be especially careful when searching housing ads online. Many have grown up with the internet and feel comfortable doing business without face-to-face interaction which can make them more vulnerable to these types of online scams.” WTF? Because you’re interwebs saavy, you’re an easier target?

Generally you can smell a scam from a mile away because you are younger and you are used to scams: 1) the language in the online ad is poor at best, as if ‘Peggy’ used a Russian to English translation website to help her/him write it; 2) for whatever reason, when you call the landlord he or she says that they are out of the country on a mission in Wadiya, or live in Vegas, baby so they can’t meet you there; 3) the phone number to call for the ad always has an out of state number or worse-is an international number; 4) they want you to WIRE a deposit somewhere to hold or rent the property; 5) the rent price is like wow, HALF the normal rent for a two bedroom flat.

Ding, ding, ding, all your alarms are going off. The proper protocol for leasing an apartment or house generally starts with a readable ad written by a landlord or property manager then published on the internet or in a local paper. Sometimes you get to see the property because the landlord has hidden a key, left the door open, or the property manger gave you a code. You then usually fill out a rental application for the landlord. IF you go through a professional leasing company you will also a) have to submit an application fee along with your application; and b) at least have your criminal back ground checked.

Additionally, you are smart enough to find out who the owner of record is of the property. The county you live in has access for you on-line to the owners of property on the records. If you meet a private individual at an apartment touting themselves as the owner, ask for ID? And take a friend? Not only could “Peggy” be a scammer, but “Peggy” could be there to rob and or rape you. Not kidding.

Words to the wise-put on your super scumbag alert headphones and be cautious, not desperate. If you’ve been looking for weeks and weeks for a landlord who will rent to you with your 225LB dog, and FINALLY “Peggy” shows up at a fantastic penthouse downtown and offers it to you for a $1000 cash depost-RUN! It’s too good to be true. If you call the area code/ number listed for Wadiya and “Peggy” tells you there are 7 people interested in the unit and if you WIRE $1000 tonight you’ll get the place know that he/she is a LIAR ! Don’t send money unless you can verify the source. Do not give the stinkin’ rent pirates ANY of your personal account information, SSN numbers or a rental application UNTIL you know where that pirate does his banking and docks his ship at night! And remember: TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY IS SEPT. 19TH. Arrrrgh!