Rental Scams Part 1: Stolen Identities and What to Look For
Thorough screening is incredibly important when choosing a tenant for your property. After all, you are talking about allowing a stranger to live in your investment. Choosing the wrong tenant could cost you time, money, and a lot of headaches.
But, how do you know if you are being thorough? How do you know if your applicant is being truthful? How do you spot scams? How do you protect yourself from potential tenants that are hiding something damaging?
Rental scams are on the rise. And, if you aren’t careful, you can easily fall victim to one of these schemes before you even realize it.
To help you better navigate your tenant screening and protect yourself, we’ve decided to do a 3-part rental scam series.
First up? Stolen identities.
People steal identities all the time, but why would one want to give a fake identity to potential landlords? Well, there are a few reasons. The scheming individual could have poor credit, a criminal history, a lack of income or job history, questionable immigration status, and so on.
With landlords getting more and more strict on what they require (and for good reason), potential tenants who don’t meet the mark will try to do what they can – and that includes presenting a fake ID.
Think about your screening habits for a moment. Would you consider renting your property to someone who has an extensive eviction history? Poor credit? No job? Exactly.
What to Look For
Now that you know the why let’s take a look at the how. How can you spot a fake or stolen identity? How can you tell the person completing your application for tenancy is truly not who they say they are? Through extensive experience, we have some tips that can help keep you from finding yourself in this situation. Check out these red flags!
Make sure the names match. As your potential tenant provides you with the required documentation, take a thorough look at the names. This includes the driver’s license (or state ID), social security card, the application itself, the credit report, and so on. There should be no variations in the name.
Missing information. If you require a social security card, then your potential tenant must provide it to you. If he/she cannot, this could be a problem.
Review the credit report. If someone has had their ID stolen – and they are aware of it – the credit bureaus will mark the report. Review the credit report carefully to see if there are any fraud alerts or if there is any variation to the name – or info on the name.
Look at all the details. You have to be diligent in your search. As you go through an application for tenancy with a fine-toothed comb, you should be making sure that everything matches. This includes looking at social media profiles, etc. Do the names, employment, photos match?
Believe it or not, there are tools out there that can help you make wise decisions on choosing a particular tenant. Sure, the matching, checking, verifying, and asking questions should all be part of your basic review. You should know that there are services available to help you do this, too. A program that screens for credit history, criminal history, address matches, child molester check, and terrorist database checks would be ideal.
Some reputable services come from Experian, Equifax, and Zillow. Of course, if you are a smaller property owner, you may be looking for something more feasible. Check out Turbo Tenant and Rent Manager. These are both great software options.
Keep in mind that nothing is foolproof. You could practice diligence with each and every one of these items and still find yourself falling victim. Scammers are constantly looking for new ways to make things happen for their benefit. The best thing you can do is keep your eyes open and, well, if something seems off, it probably is. Dig some more!
Marina Shlomov, a managing partner at ALH|Podland Rental Homes Property Managementis the author of many articles on Landlording, Property Management, and Real Estate Investing. A residential builder in the state of Georgia since 1999, Marina is an investor herself. Her property management company is intended “For Investors” and “By Investors” for a simple reason – she knows what investors’ goals are and she works hard to reach their goals. In her spare time, Marina likes to spend time with her family, friends, garden, read and travel. Check her out at www.alhpodland.com. You can find Marina’s articles and comments at @rentalhomesatl on Twitter, on Facebook, Google+, Blogger. and YouTube, Bigger Pocketsand REI CLub and LinkedIn.