TDCI Offers Tips on How to Spot Rental and Moving Scammers
NASHVILLE – As Tennessee’s strong economy continues making the Volunteer State a popular destination for newcomers, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs is offering tips to prospective renters on how to avoid becoming a victim of moving and/or home rental scammers.
“Moving is already a stressful process, but falling victim to a moving or home rental scam further compounds the headache,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “While scammers might change their tactics, their goal is always the same: Hurting consumers. Consumers can protect themselves by never taking offers at face value and remembering that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
To raise awareness among consumers about the prevalence of home rental and moving scams, TDCI shares the following reminders to keep in mind before you pay:
IF YOU’RE RENTING:
Rental scammers prey on prospective renters by promising a great deal on a property that actually isn’t for rent or doesn’t exist at all. Unfortunately, a recent analysis by popular real-estate website Moving.com found that rental scams appear to be on the rise nationally. Before you rent, remember:
· Always meet the landlord in person before paying. Often, rental scammers won’t meet you in person or say they’re unavailable when you want to meet them. Instead, they prefer to take your money from afar – sometimes from another country. If the person you’re paying won’t meet you face-to-face, it’s probably time for you to move on.
· Visit the rental property. If you’re trying to rent a property but your “landlord” won’t allow you to visit or inspect the property, there’s a very good chance you’re dealing with a scammer. Rental scammers advertise properties that they don’t have actual access to or even own. Unfortunately, the Internet makes this scam a reliable one. If they won’t let you visit the property you want to rent, walk away before they take your money.
· Never pay in cash or wire money. A common tactic by scammers is to get their money (usually for the first and last months’ rent and a security deposit) from you either as a cash payment (which doesn’t leave a paper trail) or by a wire transfer. Never wire money for a rental property or go along with a cash-only transaction.
· Never give out personal information. Your prospective landlord shouldn’t demand your Social Security number, credit card or banking information. As a general rule, don’t provide any key financial information until a lease has been signed and you’ve checked them out.
IF YOU’RE MOVING:
Fraudulent movers use several tactics to swindle you out of getting what you pay for. Some give you a quote and accept a deposit, but don’t show up on moving day. Others give you a quote based on weight, but then charge excessive fees after stating your items exceeded the estimates. Finally, some fraudulent movers load your items onto the truck, but never arrive at your new home. What can you do before you move?
· Be wary of a company that has no address and no information about a mover’s registration or insurance.
· Use discretion when hiring someone who is not affiliated with or employed by a credible business.
· Vet your choices by checking a moving company’s reviews and complaint history on the websites of the Better Business Bureau and the American Moving & Storage Association.
· Steer clear of a moving company that gives estimates over the phone or via email instead of onsite.
· Beware low-ball estimates. Ask about additional fees and whether the estimate is binding, non-binding, or not-to-exceed. Learn more about the different types of moving estimates here.
· Be wary if a mover asks for a large down payment or full payment in advance of the move. Avoid paying with cash.
· Avoid signing any blank or incomplete documents. Get all details in writing. Confirm the terms and conditions of the contract, including the insurance coverage, limits of liability, pick-up and delivery dates, and rate calculations.
· Remember, professionals will have company-branded vehicles. If the movers show up in rental or unmarked trucks, there’s potential it’s a scam.
· If a mover has stolen your items or says it won’t return your items to you without more money than you agreed to pay, contact your local law enforcement for help.
· If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly by a moving company, file a complaint with TDCI’s Division of Consumer Affairs at tn.gov/consumer. Moving scams can also be reported to the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.