Online sites have made the process of finding a home to rent a much easier process. Sites like Craigslist and Trulia allow a potential renter to search for available apartments from across the country. This new online model for finding a rental has also created an increased opportunity for fraud.
Legitimate real estate agents, investors, and property managers in Atlanta explained that they have seen many instances of this type of fraud recently. Generally, the fraud involves a person finding a listing on one of these online spaces then changing the contact information and reposting the listing. When potential renters then contact the person, who has no actual relationship with the rental property, the person will attempt to collect information to steal the person’s identity. In other cases, the person committing the fraud will attempt to collect a down payment or security deposit.
According to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, many of these types of rental fraud are committed by individuals outside of the United States. This can lead to many roadblocks in the attempted prosecution. This also makes it unlikely that victims will be able to easily recover any money which they have lost.
This type of fraud highlights the evolving nature of crime on the internet. As the number and complexity of these schemes increase, so does the level of government investigation into internet activities.
Once you are on the radar as part of an investigation, prosecutors may attempt to pry into every area of your electronic life. When facing an investigation, it is important to consult with a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in handling internet fraud and computer crimes.
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Rent fraud a metro Atlanta problem,” Christopher Quinn, Sept. 1, 2011