As consumers scan the Internet for good deals, particularly on free classified websites, sophisticated scammers are poised to prey on unsuspecting people. The Western Union Co., a leader in global payment services, and Better Business Bureau announced efforts to promote awareness of scams involving Internet transactions for rental properties.
BBB Scam Stopper at bbb.org/scamstopper was jointly launched by BBB and Western Union as a site to help consumers reduce their chances of becoming a victim of common scams like this one.
Although Acadiana residents don’t usually think this can happen to them, Better Business Bureau of Acadiana reminds that online rental scams generally happen in one of two ways:
Renters looking for a house or an apartment to lease get scammed by someone who poses as an “owner.” Victims come across a place in a great area, at a great price. The advertisement looks legitimate, so they reach out to the “owner,” generally by email. The “owner” says the renter can secure the place by sending money to cover an application fee, security deposit, etc.
Often, the owner claims there is a need to move quickly, because others are interested. The prospective renter sends the money but never hears from the “owner” again. We have heard of this scam around Lafayette Parish, and although it is sad, it can be prevented.
Some “owners” tell victims to send the money in the name of a friend or family member to prove that funds are available, but this should not be used as a security measure.
In another scenario, legitimate owners seek to rent out their property and get scammed by someone claiming to be a renter. “Renters” contact victims, generally by email, and follow up with a check for the deposit. Shortly after that, the renter cancels the deal and asks the owner to wire the money back. The owner soon finds out the check was a fake, but it is often too late.
Money transfer 'never-evers'
Consumers can lower their chances of falling victim to fraud with these tips:
• Never use a money transfer service to send money to people you haven’t met in person.
• Never provide your banking information to people or businesses you don’t know.
• Never reimburse someone for a payment made to you by check until you call your bank and verify the funds have cleared.
On BBB Scam Stopper, visitors can sign up to receive BBB Scam Alerts, weekly emails with details on the latest scams reported to BBBs across North America. Information on scams and how to protect yourself is also available at Western Union’s Consumer Protection Center: westernunion.com/ stopfraud.