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One of my frequently visited post details the scam that “live-in landlords” are target for.  The scam e-mails are inevitable.  If you’re posting a room or entire dwelling to rent, you’ll be targeted.  There’s nothing you can do receiving what seems like a constant stream of scam e-mails.

However, many folks have commented to the post with their own experiences, often times, leaving a copy of the e-mail received in hopes that a “live-in landlord” is smart enough to do a Google search when they receive a suspicious looking e-mail.

One commenter, left a new twist to the scam that I wanted to bring to light.

Another part of this scam, especially those that send you pix of themselves, is that if you send them the info asked for – full name, address, etc you could potentially get a let from an “attorney” telling you that you violated the federal housing discrimination laws and that they will proceed to sue you in federal court but this can be “settled” with a payment (buyoff) of $5K. After they have sent the pix they will use all sorts of delay tactics until you find another renter and then proceed with the lawsuit part of the scam.

If you are renting a room in your own home you do not violate any housing laws by being selective in who you rent to.  You’re sharing your personal space with someone and you get to choose who you share that space with.  In contrast to renting out an entire house or dwelling, as long as they can afford to make the payments and financial fit, you cannot turn them away as potential renter just because you don’t like their lifestyle choices or demographic.  It’s not right and it’s discrimination.

Normally, the scammer would want to secure your room by sending you a check over the amount that’s required.  Then the scammer would want to request a refund of the overpayment.  This seems legitimate, but the scammer sent a fake check that will bounce while you’re sending a legitimate check for the difference in overpayment.

This twist to the scam doesn’t even involve an overpayment; it attacks the premise that you’re violating a housing discrimination law.

To me, the key part to being a prey is:

  • Don’t request a picture or asking any kind of demographic background.
  • Don’t provide a picture or any personal information until you’ve spoken with the person over the phone.

I don’t know how prevalent this scam is, but I thought I should bring it up so that “live-in landlords” are aware that if someone is trying to make a settlement because you’ve discriminated(knowingly or unknowingly), you should proceed with caution if someone is asking for money.

  • Dave S. November 25, 2013, 10:24 pm

    Remember, though, even though Federal anti-discrimination laws don’t apply to roommate situations, it is illegal to write discriminatory postings-except to specify gender. I have found that by putting in a few “character requirements” into my Craigslist adds, most tenants will self-select towards or away from your add. Think of all the character qualities, or personal habits of what you want in a tenant, and put them into the add. E.g. clean/not clean, mention you do a background check, quiet vs. party house, etc.

  • Glen February 7, 2016, 2:36 pm

    Couldn’t one avoid such scams by requiring 1-2 “local” phone-able references up front and checking them out? And would it be better to meet the prospective renter within walking distance of your property for an initial interview? I would not let a shady character inside or want them to have my address or see my car, which could lead them to the address. In fact I’d snap a photo of their vehicle tags upon arrival and demand to snap a photo of their D/L before things went too far, “due diligence for other tenants”…


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