Renting? Make Sure the Place Really Exists Prior to Signing…

If you are hunting for an apartment on Craigslist, watch out for rental cons. A new report from New York University explores just how common these scams are.

Spoiler alert: they are everywhere.

Homer Rent

How the Scam Works:

You are looking at Craigslist apartment listings for a new place to live. You know that scams are common on the site, but just how prevalent are they? Very, according to the NYU researchers. Craigslist fails to identify more than half of rental scam listings, and suspicious posts linger for as long as 20 hours before being taken down.
Researchers reviewed more than 2 million for-rent posts and found 29,000 fake listings in 20 major cities. Of those, there were three key types of scams. In the first, a fake post instructs a would-be tenant to purchase a credit report. The scammer gets a commission from the credit reporting site, even though there is no property for rent.
In another scheme, con artists duplicate rental listings from other sites and post on Craigslist at a lower price. Prospective renters pay a deposit via wire transfer. Another pervasive scam is “realtor service” companies. Targets are asked to pay fees to access listings of pre-foreclosure rentals or rent-to-own properties. In the majority of cases, the companies leading the scams have no connection to the properties listed.

How to Spot a Rental Scam:

• Don’t wire money or use a prepaid debit card: You should never pay a security deposit or first month’s rent by prepaid debit card or wire transfer. These payments are the same as sending cash – once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
• Watch out for deals that sound too good: Scammers lure in targets by promising low rents, great amenities and other perks. If the price seems much better than offered elsewhere, it may be a scam.
• See the property in person: Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised.
• Don’t fall for the overseas landlord story: Scammers often claim to be out of the country and instruct targets to send money overseas.
• Search for the same ad in other cities: Search for the listing online. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that’s a huge red flag.

 

GIF courtesy giphy.com & SimpsonsWorld.com

Looking to Sell Stuff Online? Be Careful…

If you sell items online, watch out for this con. Scammers are fooling sellers with fake emails that appear to be payment confirmation messages from PayPal.

Monkey Computer

How the Scam Works

You post a big-ticket item (vehicle, computer, furniture) for sale on Craigslist, eBay or another online sales site.An interested buyer contacts you and says that he or she wants to buy the item right away and arranges to meet for the exchange.

When you arrive, however, the buyer doesn’t have cash. Instead, they claim to have sent the money through PayPal. You check your email and, sure enough, you have what appears to be a message from PayPal confirming the transfer. The scammer may even claim that the transfer is “invisible,” and that’s why you can’t see it in your PayPal account.

Of course, there is no such thing as an “invisible” transfer. The scammer didn’t send any money, and is just trying to take your item without paying. Some versions of this scam also have an overpayment twist.  In these, the scammer “accidentally” overpays you for the item. For example, he or she “sends” you $2,000 payment for the item you are selling for $200.  Then, he or she requests that you wire back the difference. By the time you figure out the PayPal transfer was a fake, the scammer is long gone.

Tips to avoid online sales scams:

  • Don’t accept checks or money orders: When selling to someone you don’t know, it is safer to accept cash or credit card payments.
  • Do not accept overpayments: When selling on Craigslist, eBay or similar sites, don’t take payments for more than the sales price, no matter what convincing story the buyer tells you.
  • Always confirm the buyer has paid before handing over the item. Don’t take the buyer’s word for it.
  • Be wary of individuals claiming to be overseas. In many different types of scams, con artists claim to be living abroad to avoid in person contact. Consider this a red flag.
  • Meet sellers/potential buyers in person and in a safe place: Meet in a public area and never invite buyers/sellers into your home. Ask your local police department if they have a “safe lot” program. Even if they don’t, suggesting the parking lot or lobby of a police station as a meeting place might be enough to scare off a scammer.

For More Information

Read more about selling on eBay, including what to do when sellers don’t pay. Also, check out Craigslist’s resources about avoiding scams when selling on the site.
To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).

 

Tax Scam Explodes This Week

Better Business Bureau offices across the U.S. are seeing a big increase this week in reports of the “tax imposter scam” (also called the “IRS scam”), which was the top scam reported to BBB last year. Con artists are posing as IRS agents and calling consumers claiming they owe back taxes. Targets are instructed to send money via wire transfer or prepaid debit card, or face terrifying consequences such as arrest, lawsuits, and fines.

In the past year, BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker) received more than 6,200 reports of tax collector imposter scams in the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration estimates that more than 5,000 victims have lost more than $26 million in the past two years as a result of the scam. Although the scam does not seem to be targeting Canadian citizens this week, tax imposters are the top scam in Canada, too.

Tax imposters often go to great lengths to seem realistic. Over the phone, the scammer may provide a fake badge number and name. Emails often use the agency’s logo, colors, and official-sounding language.

BBB’s advice is to hang up on the caller or delete the email.

How to Spot a Tax Impostor Scam: 

Here are some ways to spot a fake tax collector.

  • It’s the first you’ve heard about the debt. Tax agencies don’t call, text, or email without first contacting you by mail. If you’ve never received a letter about past due taxes, the “agent” is most likely a scammer.
  • You are pressured to act immediately. Scammers typically try to push you into action before you have had time to think. The government will give you the chance to ask questions or appeal what you owe.
  • Payment must be made by wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or other non-traditional payment methods. These methods are largely untraceable and non-reversible. Tax agencies don’t demand immediate payment, require a specific form of payment, or ask for credit card or debt card numbers over the phone.

Additional Resources:

U.S.: If you owe taxes or you think you might, contact the IRS at 800.829.1040 or irs.gov. IRS employees at that line can help you if there really is an issue. Also check out the IRS’s list of imposter scams.

Canada: Check out the CRA’s fraud webpage for their contact information and details on accessing your online account.

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