Local Police Warn Residents of Facebook Marketplace Rental Scams

Spring Hill, TN – We have taken several reports this year in which victims are scammed into thinking they are renting a house in Spring Hill. The scammer will pose as a landlord/property owner and place “their” property for rent on Facebook Marketplace. The scammer does not actually own the property, they simply want your money and will disappear. Facebook Marketplace prices are sometimes lower. If a price is too good to be true, it probably is.

Often times the scammer will ask the victim to create an account on a payment app, such as Zelle/MoneyGram/Venmo/CashApp. The scammer will send the victim an “application” or “lease agreement” and the victim will send money to the scammer for the deposit or rent. Sometimes the scammer will know the code to the lock box (codes should be changed frequently to help prevent this) and this will add legitimacy to the situation. Scammers often use throwaway Facebook accounts, Voice Over IP phone numbers, and use virtual private networks (VPN) to access the internet, thus making tracking them down harder.

It is extremely important to avoid being scammed in the first place. These are some common red flags:

  • Watch out for common signs of suspicious posts such as vague messages, low prices, lack of photos, and no contact information.
  • Be sure to thoroughly check the contact information on a listing, as this is usually the best way to identify a scam. Verify the correct contact information by cross-referencing credible sources.
  • Do not communicate with anyone who does not have a photo on their profile or who is asking you to use a personal server as this may be a phishing scam.
  • Ask questions about the property in person (not through email). A real landlord or leasing agent will be knowledgeable about the home.
  • Be sure to inspect the property before signing any contracts or handing over money.
  • Be cautious of people who are asking for upfront cash payments.

Ways to find trustworthy rental listings online:

  • Always research the listing. You might also want to check other listings on different websites.
  • Perform a Google search of the listing name and address to see if there are any review websites that mention it. Websites such as Nextdoor, Yelp! and ApartmentRatings can provide some valuable insight on home listings near you.
  • Be wary of deals that are too good to be true and vague messages from landlords. If the landlord is offering a price much lower than what it actually costs, there’s probably something wrong with the property or they’re scamming you.
  • Ask for identification.Rental agents should have photo ID badges issued by the company that owns or manages the property.
  • Never pay with cash, wire transfers or gift cards. If anyone tells you to pay this way, it’s a sure sign of a scam. Wiring money is like sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back. As for gift cards, they’re for gifts, NOT for payments.

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