Every Saturday the Jacksonville Progress has a great article, from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), that deals with avoiding scams. Part of this past Saturday’s article addressed property rent scams. Just two weeks ago, a couple dropped into our office to ask about a property we manage that leases for $1,100 per month, plus utilities. They had gone over to the house and the house cleaner told them to come see us.

They had found it on www.housesforrent.ws and www.rentspeed.com, two sites which we do not advertise on. I did communicate with the websites and told them the ad was a scam. In fact this scammer was advertising rentals, all over the country. The property was being advertised for $700 per month, with utilities included. They told me that they had paid the security deposit, to the person who was renting it, by using a cell phone app and debiting their debit card. They were saddened to find out that they had been scammed. I told them to get with Austin Bank, ASAP, and cancel the debit.

Fortunately they succeeded. The individual advertising the house had phone numbers from Atlanta, Missouri and Delaware. They spoke with him on the Atlanta number and told me he had a heavy Spanish accent. The scammer even told him that he had overnighted the keys to the house, which he did not...........and couldn’t have anyway. I attempted to call the 770 number, pretending to be a prospect, and it went to a non-descript voicemail. I left a message and got a text back, asking me if I had committed any crimes, to which I said no. I also asked when I could see the property. I got no response to that question.

I later took the time to text the scammer and told him we had him nailed. The scam was also reported to the authorities. The lease document these people signed was also a joke and not in compliance with Texas law. Here’s the main lesson: Whatever you do, do not pay rents other than directly to the owner or property manager, and do it, in person, verifying that these individuals are legitimate. Always be very cautious! Also check out Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code: http://www.texaspropertycode.org/chapter-92-texas-property-code.html. The code sets forth all obligations of the landlord and the tenant.

Mike McEwen

Jacksonville