Rental and real estate fraud cost Massachusetts residents nearly $9 million in 2021, the FBI’s Boston Division said in a warning to residents.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of money being lost by people desperate for a good deal. Scammers take advantage of renters who have to act quickly for fear of missing out, and it costs consumers thousands of dollars and, in some cases, leaves them stranded,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent with the FBI’s Boston department. “We are asking everyone to exercise caution, especially over the next few months as people look to book last minute summer getaways.”
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the past three years have seen a steady increase in casualties reported by victims of these scams.
About 12,000 people in the US reported losing $350,328,166 in 2021 to rental and real estate fraud, the FBI said. In New England, 415 victims reported $13,424,269 in losses, the FBI said, up 27%.
In 2021 there were 290 victims in Massachusetts for a total loss of $8,944,041.
However, actual losses could be higher “because many people are reluctant to report they have been scammed,” the FBI said.
The FBI said a man in Idaho was planning to relocate to Rhode Island. He responded to a Craigslist ad for a one-year lease in Narragansett and was asked to wire $21,756 to the owner.
The FBI said he received an advance from his employer and sent the money.
“Before the agreed time for the meeting, the man received a text message canceling the meeting because the ‘owner’ was in Chicago caring for his ailing son,” the FBI said in a statement. “The man went to the residence and was greeted by the actual owner who told him it was not a rental property and he had not placed an online ad.”
The FBI advises people not to transfer funds to people they don’t know, look for reviews and references online, and don’t invest money in a home or apartment you haven’t seen.
More tips from the FBI:
- Don’t transfer funds to people you don’t know.
- Don’t put money into a house or apartment you haven’t seen.
- Confirm the landlord’s identity by researching public records to find out who owns the property you are looking to rent or buy.
- Do not fill out the applications online until you have met the property management directly.
- Know the local rental prices.
- Look for online reviews, testimonials, and testimonials from past residents.
- Be careful when a potential renter wants to rent a property unseen.
- Be careful when a prospective renter says they’re out of town and sends you a bank check.
- Be careful when a prospective landlord says they are abroad and want the rent to be transferred to a foreign account.
- Do not accept overpayment for real estate. If you receive a check for the amount stated, return it. Don’t deposit it.