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National News Literacy Week teaches people how to avoid rental scams

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
California City officials investigating phone scam
Posted at 3:55 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 20:23:54-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The California Association of Realtors expects supply limitations and higher home prices will cause a dip in-home sales, but median home prices are forecasted to rise another 5.2 percent in 2022 after a projected 20.3 percent increase in 2021.

Yet with the rise in prices, comes a rise in scams of those hoping to trick consumers into falling for advertisements for homes listed at lower sale or rental prices.

Reverse image searching can help us investigate whether something is fact or fiction, but can it help you find out if the advertisement of your dream home is legit or a scam? Experts say if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Ronda Newport with Real Estate Anti-Fraud Coalition said, “Inventory is low with rentals as well and prices are high so with that you can get fraud that happens.”

Rental ad scams aren’t new, but Newport said lack of homes on the market causes desperation.

“I know that the bad actors out there are looking on social media. They're taking the information from maybe the property management companies and they're putting it out there where they're spinning it a little bit and they're doing a different price. If you are getting an email from somewhere other than Bakersfield, look into it.”

John Silva with the News Literacy Project said if you have a photo of the home or apartment from the advertisement, a reverse image search might not be the best idea.

“Unless it’s something really unique, the search engine is not going to have enough to compare it to. If it’s a ranch-style house I am going to get pictures of ranch houses and it’s going to be pretty difficult to find," said Silva.

Instead, try looking at the home using google street view.

This is how it works: start by typing the address in the search bar, drag the toggle to the street you are looking on, then use the arrows to look around the area.

This can help you verify the address.

“It’s pretty rare especially in an urban area to find a street that hasn’t had a google street view car, go down it at least once,” said Silva.

However, Silva said verifying apartment ads is a little trickier: “Unless the apartment was a condo you might not be able to see something about a specific apartment unit.”

Newport says whether you’re buying or renting a home, always dig deeper into that listing.

“Buyer beware, renter beware. Do your due diligence, do the research.”

To verify a listing, you can also use real estate websites like Zillow to find the homes price and tax history and neighborhood details.