PERMIAN BASIN (KMID/KPEJ)- The Permian Basin Board of Realtors is warning the community of a scam involving rental homes. In the past, scammers have targeted families looking for a home by offering rentals at a low price, then scamming them out of a deposit. Now, we’re told the scammers are going to extremes to seem legitimate. 

Lance Welch, President of the Permian Basin Board of Realtors, said the scam starts with criminals taking images and home details off of legitimate websites, and reposting that information on sites such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, offering the home for rent at a low price.

“The deal just sounds way too good to be true,” Welch said. Especially in the Midland-Odessa area, where rental homes are in high demand, and often cost much more.

Welch said the images posted below are screenshots of such scams:

“They list a three bedroom, two bath home for $1,200 a month. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. They (renters) end up sending in their deposit and then never end up hearing from them (the scammers) again.” he said. 

These scammers target families looking for a home at an affordable price by posing as a landlord asking interested renters to contact them directly. Because rental homes don’t last long on the market, Welch said renters will hand over personal information, sign contracts, and even send an electronic payment to scammers as a deposit to hold the property, only to lose their money when the scammer pulls the listing and disappears. 

But that’s not all. Welch said these scammers have found a new way to appear legitimate.

“What we’re running into now is…scammers have gotten a little bit smarter,” he said. 

By law, real estate agents are required to post their license number online when advertising available homes, and scammers are using that information to their advantage.

“They’re posing as a realtor to get into the house…once they get inside, they end up looking a lot more legit,” he said. 

Which means, if you are trying to avoid an online scam by contacting the poster and having them meet you at the home they’ve advertised, you could still become a victim.

Welch said there are ways to protect yourself. 

“This morning someone is moving into a vacant unit currently listed for rent, sent money to an unknown person and signed a contract with them. We are asking that people interested in any rental do their research on the property, contact the listing office/agent directly or any licensed real estate agent. We are licensed professionals and are here to help. Facebook marketplace is not a place someone should inquire about rentals for this very reason,” he said.

Welch said you can search all home listings here, this includes homes that are for sale and those that are for rent and will include the actual asking price. Once you find a home that interests you, Welch said you should call the realtor or even the Permian Basin Board of Realtors to make sure you’re dealing with a real property agent. And, when viewing a rental property, look for signs, such as a yard sign advertising the home and naming the listing agent.

He also said knowing these red flags can help you avoid a scam:

  • Rent is well below the market value
  • The rent, deposit and/or fees don’t match the MLS listing 
  • The landlord or agent is not local
  • There is no tenant screening process
  • They want you to pay before applying
  • Grammatical errors

Welch said these scams have become problematic nationwide and that realtors are hoping to work with lawmakers to find a solution.