Rental scam costs Oakland County woman nearly $1K; here's what to look for

Posted at 5:04 AM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-28 06:58:55-04

(WXYZ) — We've reported rental prices are on the rise, but now police say they are seeing a rise in rental scams, too.

In some cases, people are losing hundreds of dollars. One Oakland County woman shared the ordeal she went through with me so you don't waste your money.

Ashley Roark of Berkley said she lost about $930 – which equated to a full first month of rent, security deposit, and the application fee.

In March, her mom saw an ad on Craigslist for a rental home in Madison heights.

"Did the Craigslist ad have any indications that might be fake?" I asked Ashley.

Related: Metro Detroiters say their rents are increasing at unsustainable rates

”I don't think the Craigslist ad did. No. It had a 248 number attached to it. People were quick to respond. The photos were all really nice. They matched what the house looked like," Roark said.

But, the owner would not let her see inside the home until she had sent $130 through Cash App.

“People are really wanting - even management companies - are wanting your application fee before the viewing to make sure that you're going to be accepted or approved before they even show you the property," Roark said.

She drove by the home and it looked empty – ready to rent. She then talked on the phone with someone claiming to be a lawyer writing the lease agreement who told her he had to go out of town soon. Therefore, the first month's rent and security deposit needed to be sent quickly in order for the person to get the paperwork and keys sent to Roark.

Metro Detroiters say their rents are increasing at unsustainable rates

"Looking back on the case now, were there any red flags?" I asked.

“Yes, there was no law firm letterhead on the lease agreement from the lawyer," she said.

She got wary and asked her mom to text the contact number listed on the advertisement. Ten minutes after Roark was supposed to meet the person, they blocked her phone number and texted her mother trying to rent the property to her.

Roark reported the fraud to Berkley Police.

“We’ve seen a trend over the last two to three years of these rental scams," Detective Lt. Andrew Hadfield said.

According to Hadfield, most of the cases originate on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

“Anytime someone’s asking for money beforehand, before you’ve seen the property, that should be the first red flag," he said.

Hadfield recommends you use a trusted real estate website, meet the landlord or property manager in person, view the inside of the property in person, and don't pay large sums of money before signing the lease.

Other red flags to look for include if the rent is too good to be true, if they want you to sign an incomplete lease agreement, or if they're rushing you through the process.

Remember, report any suspected scam to police, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Better Business Bureau.