It’s another PCS season. You and your family are finally packed up and headed to your new destination. Except your new home doesn’t exist.
This nightmare has become a reality for many servicemembers going through a PCS move. With the Army Criminal Investigation Command reporting housing scams targeting military families on the rise, it is more important than ever for soon-to-be residents to carefully review their housing documents before making any kind of monetary commitments to a unit.
As a Realtor and military spouse, Lauren Taylor has seen it all. As founder and chief marketing director of Pay It Forward, she assists her organization in connecting military families to a network of local servicemembers and professionals across over 100 cities to make moving safer and stress-free.
Pay It Forward’s main mission “is to cut down on the number of families that are taken advantage of by fraudulent rental scams,” said Taylor, adding that military families on the move should ask themselves these questions to avoid falling for a fake listing or other housing scam:
1. Is it too good to be true? If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. If the location, amenities, or size of the unit seem to be unusual for the listing price compared to other properties in the surrounding area, they probably are.
2. Do they want money up front? Scammers work with a sense of urgency and may pressure you to wire money before anything is signed. You should never have to send money to get the process started. “A deposit should not be taken without a signed rental agreement between the landlord and the tenant,” Taylor said. “I also encourage people to cross-reference public tax records to ensure the person trying to receive their deposit is also the person who has the legal ability to rent the home.”
3. Will they show you the home? If they won’t, it is possible there is no home to show. Even if you can’t be there to see the property personally, ask if a local contact can see the building. If not, steer clear.
4. Did the landlord show up? If the landlord refuses to meet prior to an agreement, you should take it as a red flag. It is unlikely that the landlord is too busy to meet potential tenants; it’s more likely the landlord is not a real person. Scammers rarely take the extra step to pretend to be landlords, Taylor notes, preferring the simplest path possible to make a quick buck.
5. Are you complacent about housing websites? Many listing sites have no form of vetting a post before it is posted. Sites such as Apartment Finder or Zillow may remove a post after it has been reported, but there is no proof required for someone to post a listing.
6. Are you connected to your community? Pay It Forward allows members to share legitimate listings to help military families in over 100 cities. You can also take advantage of memberships in organizations such as MOAA to widen your military community network no matter where you are.
MOAA Knows Why You Serve
We understand the needs and concerns of military families – and we’re here to help you meet life’s challenges along the way. Join MOAA now and get the support you need.