Ocean County Press Release
Know What to Look For as Landlord or Tenant

TOMS RIVER – Warm weather means summer rentals and if you're a prospective buyer looking to buy a summer home along the shore or a homeowner looking to rent out your summer home, there are a few things you should consider before signing on the dotted line.

"Using a reputable real estate agent for both prospective tenants and landlords can help assure you have a fun and carefree vacation," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, Chairman of Ocean County Consumer Affairs. "Con artists are known to pose as property owners as well as respond to an online rental listing."

Scammers will place online rental ads that turn out to be fraudulent. The ads appear genuine with pictures taken from legitimate real estate listings. To make matters worse, the scammer may use the address of a real property listing to help bolster their scam. The fraudulent landlord will then ask the prospective tenant to wire the security deposit. Yet, when the tenant arrives, they find the property not available or non-existent.

Likewise, a scammer may scam the owners by responding to a real estate listing. They may agree to rent the property, write out a check or money order to cover the deposit, and then back out and demand their money back. The owner will proceed to refund their money only to find out after that the check or money order was fraudulent.

"It's important to remember that whether you are a prospective tenant or landlord, that putting your personal information on a fraudulent real estate contract can expose you to identity theft," said Vicari, who also serves as liaison to tourism. "Taking a few simple precautions can help alleviate some potential problems."

Consumer experts recommend:
• Work with a reputable real estate agent who will have access to legitimate listings and leads on renters.
• Always remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it more than likely is. A landlord asking for an extremely low rent, or a prospective tenant offering to pay more than the asking price would fall under the category of "too good to be true."
• Be sure to conduct your own online research of the owner's or agent's name and phone number when looking at online real estate listings. If the owner refuses to give you straight answers to specific questions or pressures you into signing a contract, this may be a sign of a scam.
• If possible, ask someone you trust to inspect the property and meet with the owner before you put down a deposit. Paying by credit card provides another safety net. Make sure to save all transaction receipts, print-outs of the website and all emails.
• If you're an owner and choose to accept a cashier's check or money order, do not withdraw any money until the bank has assured you the check has been cleared and the money is truly available.

If you have fallen victim to a scam, contact the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs at (732) 929-2105 or visit online at www.co.ocean.nj.us/consumer to file a complaint.

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