Just when you thought your job as a landlord was difficult enough and even with due diligence in collecting proper proof of income from applicants, you could be getting scammed. It’s a sad world today, with bad people thinking up new ways to steal money out of your pockets.
Preying on the landlord who does not perform a proper, thorough screening of their applicants, scam artists with criminal records, no means of income and a history of prior evictions will convince you they are the perfect tenant. They look like Boy Scout leaders or your Aunt Tillie who joined the convent ten years ago. They come with cash; they tempt you with three month’s rent in advance; they want to move in early before signing a lease agreement without giving you first and security (“Can I please just put a few things in this weekend?”) and they play with your emotions soliciting enough sympathy to get you to “make an exception” to your screening procedures. And when you fall for it all, you’ve just obtained a tenant who will soon become one of your worst nightmares. They are professionals, they are slick and they are good. But….they are also beatable IF you take the time to perform proper, thorough screening and require written verifications as proof of their claims.
BUT….BEWARE – Even if you require the proper proof of employment, not all documents are what they claim to be, and can no longer be a trusted source on their own. Unemployed applicants can now obtain falsely prepared, official-looking check stubs as well as other supporting documents as advertised on Craigslist.
That’s right. Just as some “very ethical” doctors advertise on Craigslist, “Landlord Doesn’t Accept Pets? Come to me and I’ll give you an emotional support prescription and certificate and they’ll HAVE to”… other “very ethical” advertisers are now offering phony check stubs, copies of phony utility bills, and proof of phony prior residences.
Here are a few actual samples of what these ads on Craigslist look like:
“$100 – DO YOU NEED CHECK STUBS? We make check stubs* to match whatever information you provide us, including company name, income amount as well as length of employment. We can also verify employment with the information you provide us with to make your check stub. Hundreds of people have used our service. CALL NOW AND GET YOUR CHECK STUBS TODAY! “
*We are not responsible for how the check stubs may/can be used. We market our products and/or services as novelty gifts and gag items.
PROOF OF INCOME, CHECKS STUBS – I offer proof of income / residence / utility bills. Text me at (phone number) and if I don’t reply in 30 minutes, email me. All of my message’s and email’s goes directly to my phone you should get a reply swiftly. Feel free to email me anytime, I should get back to you within five to 10 minutes. Most orders are done within 30 minutes or less unless I’m away. [Editor’s Note – OR IN JAIL – where you should be!]
- Direct deposit check stubs – $ 100
- Utility bill – $ 75
- Proof of residence – $ 50
- Proof of income – $ 70 or 2 for $100
DOC PREPARATION: WE GOT EM’
FROM STUBS TO STATEMENTS – Whatever docs you need we got em’ from stubs to statements. All documents delivered via email.
- Novelty college transcripts or degrees
- business/corporate tax returns
- check stubs
- verbal employment verification + voe letter
- personal tax returns
- bank statements
Do you think you would be able to tell the difference from an official check stub and a phony one? I would think the answer is no. I can only assume that you or I could easily accept one of these fakes as the real thing. And to top it off, the last advertisement claims they will even give a VERBAL employment verification when you call the number on the check stub.
How are these low-life individuals not breaking the law? They advertise as “novelty/gag items” similar to those legitimate companies who will apply your photo to a mocked up cover of TIME magazine as “Father of the Year” or “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize”.
Like I mentioned, just when you think you’re doing a good job of screening, people like this come along to make your life as a landlord even more difficult.
How to Beat the Scam Artist
There are many ways for you to protect yourself from these people by being consistent with all applicants and MAKING NO EXCEPTIONS. Here are a few suggestions:
- One way to beat the scamming applicant is to create a Criteria List with your requirements for renting – (i.e., a good credit report, no record of evictions, proof of income, etc.) and attach it to the blank application. This list announces to the applicant that you are a “no-nonsense” landlord who expects anyone wishing to rent to meet these requirements. Sometimes, this is all it takes to convince the scammers to go find a different “victim”. (A Sample Criteria List that can be used when creating your own may be found on AOA’s web site, www.aoausa.com.)
- Make sure all returned applications are completed in their entirety, SIGNED by the applicant and are accompanied with the required documents from your criteria list – (check stubs, driver’s license, etc)
- Ask the applicant if you may take their picture and attach it to the application. (Scam artists, drug dealers and undesirables do not want their picture on file and will hopefully flee.)
- Require a tenant screening fee from each applicant over the age of 18 to cover your costs of credit, eviction, criminal and other reports you obtain.
- Thoroughly verify all information on the application.
- Search the internet for the applicant’s employer, call the number listed and ask to speak with personnel to verify employment. Don’t trust phone numbers listed on the application or check stubs
- Visit the applicant’s place of employment at a time they will be working to obtain verification on the company’s letterhead.
- Verify ownership and call previous landlords from the phone numbers listed.
- Run a 5-STAR Tenant Screening Report for $26.95 (paid for with the applicant’s screening fee). This gives you not one, but two National Eviction Searches, searches for sex offenders, America’s Most Wanted list, for terrorists and narcotics traffickers. You will get an ABC credit report, TransUnion and Experian credit reports and their FICO score. It searches public records, civil judgments, consumer information and trade lines. It verifies social security numbers, payment obligations and payment histories as well as credit availability, prior inquires, bad checks and does an instant nationwide criminal search.
- If you’re not already a member, JOIN AOA. You will always have the support from those who know your business of landlording and will never be alone. You will be using the best available rental forms, can attend free landlording seminars and receive a monthly magazine with up-to-date landlording tools and new laws that affect your business.
By diligently doing the above, you will lessen your chances to be taken by professional scammers. Remember – the minute you waiver from proper screening techniques, you are opening yourself to becoming a “victim by choice”. And if you do make an exception to your rules for that poor mother of three who needs a home for her children right away because “her husband just sold their house and left her for a younger woman taking all of their savings and the family pet and car”, you will have nobody to blame but yourself with a high price tag attached to the poor decision.
P.S. When our email blast went out to members warning them of these advertisers, we were contacted by a judge (also an apartment owner) who is turning the advertisers over to the district attorney. If you personally use Craigslist, please ask them to remove these crooked advertisers!
Introducing … AOA’s NEW Applicant Screening Package!
It is good business practice to develop a thorough system for screening prospective tenants not only to keep you organized, but also to ensure you abide byCalifornialandlord regulations and Fair Housing practices. It also protects you from scam artists just waiting to prey on unsuspecting landlords.
To make your job as a housing provider easier, AOA now offers our newest forms combined in an Applicant Screening Package (Form 100S). This package was designed as a simple, yet thorough step-by-step guideline to be used for screening all of your rental applicants.
Members who follow these suggested guidelines and utilize these forms, will:
- Instantly adapt an organized, thorough screening process
- Become consistent and less vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits
- Have complete applicant records and documents in your files
- Be in compliance withCalifornia rental laws
- Organize your steps and gathered information
- Have your screening results “at a glance” on one cover page
- Be more likely to obtain a good-paying tenant
- Lower your chances to be stuck with deadbeats, scam artists and troublesome tenants
The AOA Applicant Screening Package consists of three forms:
- The Applicant Screening Checklist – a step-by-step screening checklist
- Rental History Verification Letter – to obtain rental history from previous landlords or property management companies with your applicant’s authorization
- Authorization and Verification of Employment Letter – for those companies that only verify employment in writing with your applicant’s authorization
The new AOA Applicant Screening Package is available for FREE to all AOA members and may be obtained by downloading/printing it from the Rental Forms area on our website at www.aoausa.com. Make it part of your rental business practice today!