Tips on How to Recognize and Avoid a Real Estate Scam
If you’ve found your perfect apartment or vacation spot, and it’s too good to be true, take a step back and look a little closer. Rental scams are becoming increasingly common as scammers find more ways to get vulnerable people to commit to a property that doesn’t exist.
While Cayman Island apartment rentals are a juicy target for real estate scams, they’re by no means the only ones. Scammers will target any renters or vacationers, relying on their victims’ enthusiasm or desperation to cheat them out of their money.
What Is a Rental Scam?
A rental scam can take on several guises but fundamentally remains the same: The scammer will try to get money out of a prospective tenant without having the legal right to rent the apartment.
A common version of a rental scam is with vacation rentals, where you book your dream holiday home only to arrive and find out it doesn’t exist. Another version is one in which the apartment is real, but the scammer doesn’t have the authority to lease it because the scammer doesn’t own the property.
In both cases, scammers make most of their money during the application process. Scammers can try to get credit card information from the application form or collect security deposits from multiple people without ever renting out the property.
How to Recognize a Rental Scam
Scammers often go to extreme lengths to look legitimate. If you’re not careful, you may think you’re dealing with a real business and end up losing a lot of money. So how do you find out if someone’s a scammer or not? There’s no tried-and-tested method, but here are some signs that should set off warning bells in your mind:
Sending money without seeing the apartment
Never trust anyone who wants a lot of money for an apartment that you haven’t seen. While this can be more difficult with vacation rentals, it’s a golden tip for avoiding residential apartment scams.
Don’t rely on promises, video footage, or photos. If you haven’t seen an apartment in person, don’t sign any contract. Even if it’s not an outright scam, many landlords will hide flaws that become apparent only in person.
While many landlords are quite pushy, most will still want to follow procedures before renting out their property. It’s unusual to find a landlord who won’t do a credit check or background check, especially for a higher-end apartment. If you run into a landlord who doesn’t follow these basic screens, ask yourself why.
Similarly, if your Cayman Island apartment rentals agent is pushing for documents or payments before you’ve even made a firm decision, opt for an alternative vacation rental.
Unfortunately, with vacation rentals, you’re very unlikely to meet your contact in person until you’ve arrived at your destination. There are still a couple of things you can do to confirm that the person you’re dealing with is legitimate.
Firstly, if you’re working with an individual, look up the person on Google and social media. Does the person have a consistent social media presence? Also, use the White Pages to see if the person exists and if their address corresponds to what you’ve received.
Also, check the person’s email address. If the email address keeps changing or the emailer’s tone and grammar change periodically, view those discrepancies as a warning sign to stay away.
It’s impossible to shield yourself from all scams completely. Despite that, by following these rules you may pick up on some of the more obvious signs and learn how to avoid scammers who want your money.
Your best bet for avoiding a scam is to work with a reputable agent with an established history. If you’re looking at Cayman Island apartment rentals, give us a call today and find out why we’re among the most trusted real estate agents in the Cayman Islands.