Fraud in the rental housing market continues to take a major toll on property owners, residents and renters. While fraud has always been an issue, recent technology advancements have made it increasingly difficult for law enforcement professionals to tackle. Sophisticated hackers, engineers and paid professionals have become experts at defrauding anyone with access to the Internet via a mobile device, laptop or tablet. At the same time, savvy owners, operators and property managers have responded by using their own tech knowledge, legal expertise and local market insight to combat fraud from rearing its ugly head.
Fraud Warning Signs and How to Protect Yourself
Mynd isn’t the only company that has felt the impact of fraud: Nearly every owner and operator in the business has dealt with the consequences. So what kinds of fraudulent activities are plaguing the rental housing market right now?
- Scammers list a rental property on Craigslist or another open listing site that has no restrictions about rent: In other words, these open-source websites allow a user to easily list goods or services to purchase or rent for prices significantly below market value.
- Criminals enter a rental home during a self-showing appointment and make a copy of the house key using state-of-the-art technology.
- These same criminals meet the prospective tenant at the home, pose as the property managers and guide illegally conduct a home tour with the unsuspecting.
- Scammers create fake applications that require security deposits, oftentimes above the legal limit for the region in which they live, first and last month’s rent, etc. In the case of application fraud, prospective tenants are asked to fork over cash or even wire money to an unknown entity.
- Unscrupulous fraudsters have also been known to turn the keys over to a potential renter and walk away, stealing their money and leaving them in a home they have no right to occupy. Simply put, they take illegal occupancy of the rental home.
What Mynd Management is Doing to Combat Fraud
Mynd is at the forefront of combating fraud, so you can find safe and secure housing. Here are some steps we are taking on a daily basis:
Our product and IT teams constantly monitor our website for spam, scams, hacks and fraudulent activity. We have built a firewall that makes it difficult for hackers to view your activity on our website. You can rest assured that you are protected when you book a self-showing to see a rental property on Mynd’s website.
ID Verification Using Facial Recognition
We work with OnFido, an identity-verification provider that uses facial-recognition software to ensure you are who you say you are when you visit a property for a self-showing. Before the showing takes place, Mynd requests a copy of your state-issued government ID, driver’s license or passport and a headshot or “selfie.” This technology gives you and the owner of the property Peace of Mynd.
We created a smart algorithm to create a blocklist that allows Mynd to see if a scammer is attempting to book a self-showing in multiple metro areas at one time. If the same phone number is used for different rentals at the same time, our entire leasing team gets notified immediately and the number is flagged as fraudulent.
Properties for rent by Mynd feature a prominent “For Rent” sign in Mynd’s trademarked green color and font. If a property doesn’t have a For Rent sign in front of it, that could be a red flag for you as a renter.
Mynd has identified websites that are the most susceptible to fraud. These sites are Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Since they could potentially harm our future residents, Mynd has decided to not advertise any listings on these websites. So if you see a Mynd Management property listed on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, it’s not a real listing; it’s a fraud. The only website you should use to rent a Mynd home is https://mynd.rentlinx.com/.
Mynd has created a Fraud Taskforce to examine and analyze every aspect of our online presence that is susceptible to fraud. We meet regularly to protect our renters, residents and our property owners from scammers and fraud. When we find evidence of any wrongdoing, we take steps to rectify it immediately.
Watch for Some Common Signs of Fraud
Online renting remains the safest and most secure way to lease a home. However, we ask you to be resolute in your search and watch for signs of fraud. Some signs of fraud include:
Deals that are too good to be true
If you find a rental home listed at a rate that’s significantly below the market rate for your metro area, there’s a good chance that you have been the victim of a scam. For instance, if there’s a three-bedroom listing in the city of San Francisco for $500 a month, that is a fraudulent advertisement. Stay up to date on the latest rental rates in your metro area by checking out our Rental Housing Tracker. It contains accurate, real-time information on current rent prices in the area where you want to live.
Receiving pressure from a complete stranger in the form of emails, phone calls or text messages to lease a home before you have conducted all of your due diligence, may very well indicate fraud. Scam artists may ask you to front a deposit well before it’s time for you to pay a deposit. They may also ask you to pay extra in order to secure the home, especially if the home is located in a submarket or region that’s in high demand, such as Las Vegas, Sacramento, Phoenix, etc. Make sure to follow your local laws, and never overpay a security deposit. For instance, in the state of California, a landlord cannot ask you for a deposit in excess of $2,000. That’s the legal limit. Typically, a security deposit equates to the first month’s rent.
Emotional pleas from an individual posing as a landlord
Renters may receive impassioned pleas that are tantamount to begging for you to rent a home. In all of the regions in which Mynd operates, rental demand remains relatively high. None of our property management professionals or the landlords that we represent find it necessary to make emotional pleas to rent their homes. More often than not, there are several renters lined up for a Mynd home. Furthermore, our property management and leasing teams pride themselves on being professionals: We will not make impassioned requests to rent any of our properties.
Improper use of the English language
Online listings that include improper grammar should send a red flag about the property. We recommend that you never inquire about or rent a property if the advertisement doesn’t use proper English and grammar. If key words are missing, or if the phrases in the advertisement don’t make any sense, chances are that it’s not a legitimate listing. Give us a call or send us an email to look into listings that don’t sound right: email@example.com.
Abnormally high security deposits
If you come across an advertisement demanding more than the monthly rental payment, you may want to flag that advertisement as fraudulent. As mentioned above, most states --- such as California --- have strict laws around how much a landlord/property management company can collect as a security deposit. If it seems to be too high or completely unreasonable, chances are that it’s above the law.
No background checks
If the company or landlord you’re using to apply for a rental property moves incredibly swiftly and fails to conduct any background checks, you could be the victim of a scam. Any reputable landlord or property management company has a series of background checks in place to protect renters and the owners of the property. At Mynd, we use TransUnion to conduct background checks on your financial wherewithal and eviction history.
A limited number of photos in the advertisement
If you find a listing with one photo, or no photos, there’s a strong likelihood that you have been scammed. Legitimate landlords and property managers are completely transparent with their rental homes They display several interior and exterior photos of their available properties. Also, scammers illegally use Mynd photos and videos. They place content over our watermarks or they claim that they are working with Mynd or the owner.
Actionable Steps to Take When Experiencing Fraud
Now that you are equipped with all of the tools to identify fraud, you can take actionable steps to protect your home search. Here are some steps you can take if experience fraud when searching for, or attempting to rent a home:
- Take legal action
Capture screenshots of the advertisement, save emails, texts and voicemails of anyone who corresponds with you and then share them with the local police or law enforcement officials. Your local law enforcement authorities may have inside information on fraudsters who have previously harmed people just like you.
- Flag the ad
Nearly every rental listing portal gives you the ability to flag an ad that sounds too good to be true or that displays some evidence of fraud. Take the time to flag the advertisement as suspicious or fraudulent so that other people don’t fall victim to a scam.
- Contact Mynd’s Fraud Taskforce
If you suspect an individual, company or entity to be posing as a Mynd representative but really isn’t, don’t hesitate to contact us. Additionally, if you feel like you have been the victim of fraud, please reach out to us, and we will take every step in our power to help you.