Freddie Mac’s fraud unit is teaming up with 2,300 real estate professionals who list its HomeSteps homes to prevent landlord fraud. You might be thinking to yourself right now, “My landlord is a fraud because he’s never around when I need him to plunge the toilet!” but that’s not what Freddie is looking for. The fraud unit is focused on scam artists who pretend to own foreclosed and abandoned homes, lease them out to unsuspecting renters, then collect rents and security deposits on from those renters until the real owners of the property notice something is awry. When this happens, the fake landlords are usually long gone since they tend to collect via mailed payments and often use the chance to vet tenants as a way to also collect personal and credit information[1].

The real estate professionals and the GSE are working together to promote Freddie Mac guidelines for spotting a fake landlord. For starters, check out the property online. You should be able to determine who owns the property, whether it is for sale or rent, and if it is occupied (some fake landlords actually will simply move a family into a home while the actual occupants are on vacation!). You should also be wary of cash deposits, requests for personal credit information sent over the internet, and rental rates far below the market rates in the area[2]. If at all possible, check out the property in person and call any individuals listed on a “for sale” or “for rent” sign to make sure that they are in fact the person who is trying to rent you the house.

Have you been on either end of this scam?