As a direct result of the glut of properties for sale in the open market, rental scams have risen across the nation. Skilled criminals have been lifting legitimate property advertisements from their local multiple service listings (MLS) databases and have used that content to create false ads offering the properties for rent on sites including Craigslist.com. In turn, those ads have been used to separate unwitting victims from their hard earned cash and bold criminals have taken it one step further to use the devices to access and seize the personal information linked to credit scores of their dupes.
Rental Scams Targeting Credit Scores
Perpetrators of rental scams can be called a lot of names, but stupid is not an appropriate adjective. These criminals know how to build fake advertisements to entice potential marks and make themselves (not the real property title holder) the contact for the fake negotiations. Many times the said 'landlord' has some type of sob story in regards to why they are offering such a great deal on the rental property and often successfully con their patsy out of their hard earned cash. Another trick being implemented is a scam that will get the unwitting individuals to give out their identity.
Mortgage rate origination tool, Mortgage Marvel has advised consumers not to streamline the property rental process and to take the time to inspect the property prior to making any financial commitment. According to the source, "Demanding a face-to-face meeting and a walk-through will automatically scare the criminals off as they cannot deliver those actions." While this is still true, bold criminals have offered to provide a walk through without any down payment, background check or commitment as long as potential renters can prove they have credit scores above a certain magic number. Scammers will then provide unsuspecting individuals with a link to a free credit score and those who provide the requested information of social security numbers are more than likely to become a victim of a phishing scam.
Phishing scams are implemented by thieves as a way to fraudulently secure sensitive information of individuals in order to steal their identity, credit card number or get direct access to bank accounts. Renters should know that landlords have the legal right to check credit scores as a step of the application process, however, those who require that information prior to a walk through may be up to no good. If a landlord demands private information prior to a showing, consumers would be wise to look elsewhere for housing as a cautionary move.
Credit Score Information for Tenants
While landlords do have the legal right to investigate the credit worthiness of renters, the fact is it is illegal to do so without the written consent of the applicant in question. If a landlord automatically requires a tenant to follow a link and fill out a form without demanding written approval, heed the warning that this process is illegal in nature. If however, you do acquiesce and provide written consent do not follow any link directly provided by the landlord as this may indeed be a scam. Instead, take the time to search the web and see if this is an authentic business and call the company directly on the phone to get a human being and test the waters. In general, filling out any form provided in an email message that requests personal information is a bad move and savvy and legitimate landlords know better than to implement that strategy.
Real landlords may allow tenants to provide their own printed copies of their credit reports from Experian, TransUnion or Equifax, eliminating the need for following any link. Consumers do not have to pay for this information at all as in 2003 the government passed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), (an amendment to the 1970 Fair Credit Reporting Act) which mandates that consumers are entitled to receive one free credit report from each credit bureau on an annual basis. Consumers can either call 1-877-322-8228 or visit Annualcreditreport.com for the authentic freebie.
Importance of Credit Score
Over the past decade, credit scores have been becoming an increasingly important device for determining the worth of an individual. That numerical encapsulation of ones' credit history helps determine the financial risk surrounding a person. The number is used by landlords to determine if someone would be a responsible tenant, lenders use it to determine the interest rate they will charge borrowers for a mortgage and right or wrong, some employers use it to gauge whether or not to offer candidates jobs. Because that number is important, consumers must do their best to improve their credit rating as well as protect any confidential information that can be used to drag the number down.
The days of trusting a handshake and a smile no longer exist. Consumers must be their own advocates for protecting their private information and avoid becoming a victim of any type of scam, rental or otherwise.