New tool to fight San Diego rental scam

Realtors joined District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and State Real Estate Commissioner Wayne Bell in saying that there’s a proliferation of victims in San Diego of rental scam going on across the country. Military people are especially vulnerable to the latest real estate fraud and as well as those using free sites such as Craigslist. People in search of a house to rent often use online rental sites, but the scammers – as always – is one step ahead. They find a vacant house for sale, list it for rent, tell the prospective renter to drive by the home to see it and to then wire a deposit to hold the property. The rent is typically way below market price and seems like a good deal.

“In the majority of complaints we get, the swindler isn’t even in San Diego but in a foreign country or overseas – difficult to prosecute and get your money back,” stated Dumanis.

At the headquarters of the San Diego Association for Realtors, they unveiled new stickers that will be placed in the windows of vacant homes for sale. The sticker makes it clear the house in not for rent and includes the listing agent’s phone number along with Dumanis’ number and a link to the FBI.

The unveiling also included a number of sensible warnings:

— Never go to a home where the agent or owner can’t be there.

— Be sure to go inside.

— If you live elsewhere and are moving to that particular city, send someone you trust to inspect the home.

If it’s too good to be true, it is. But this is a tight market – affordable housing is an issue. And remember that service people are especially vulnerable.

“The rental market’s tight – you have to make decisions quickly people. Tell the scammer ‘I’m in the Navy’ (and they say) ‘oh I’m Navy too, that’s why the rent is so low. We want somebody just like you in our rental,'” said president Leslie Kilpatrick of the San Diego Association of Realtors. “They’re under pressure to move, get their family settled, report by a certain date – it’s tough to see them lose that money.”

Window stickers and due diligence are two things to remember if it sounds too good to be true.

Categories: KUSI