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Houston Association of Realtors and Crime Stoppers of Houston Launch Public Awareness Campaign on Rental Scams Rental Scams: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

HOUSTON (February 25, 2022) – Crime Stoppers of Houston and the Houston Association of Realtors/HAR, Clear Channel Outdoor and local leaders are launching a county-wide initiative to raise awareness about real estate rental scams. A press conference was held on Wednesday, February 23 to announce these efforts. Watch press conference here.

According to research conducted by Apartment List, 5.2 million renters nationwide have lost money from rental fraud. In recent months, HAR has seen an increase of Houstonians becoming the targets of these rental scams.

“They take what is often a legitimate home that is listed and repost in on another website at a price that appears too good to be true,” said HAR Chair Jennifer Wauhob. “When people are eager to get that home, they send their first month’s rent and a deposit to a landlord and it turns out that person is not the landlord. It is just a scammer taking their money.” These scams occur on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and other websites.

Authorities urge renters to be vigilant about vetting landlords prior to moving forward with any transaction. Scammers are disproportionately targeting minorities, people who may not speak English, as well as people who may not be familiar with the rental process.  “Please, even though we are in a tight inventory market, don’t send money to someone you haven’t met in person,” said Wauhob.

In an effort to proactively educate the public about these types of scams, Crime Stoppers of Houston has facilitated this partnership with HAR and Clear Channel Outdoor to raise awareness about rental scams through signage along key roadways throughout Harris and surrounding counties. Clear Channel Outdoor is donating the advertising space on its digital billboard network throughout the area and on traditional billboards to reach consumers on freeways as well as neighbourhoods.  These messages will be displayed throughout 2022 and create nearly 36 million market impressions in the first month of the campaign alone.  The message will be displayed in English and Spanish.

“Through this joint effort we will work together to provide education and awareness resources on what a rental scam is, how scammers are targeting their victims, offer tips to help Houstonians avoid becoming a victim of rental scams, and how to report this,” said Crime Stoppers of Houston CEO Rania Mankarious.

Crime Stoppers of Houston and HAR offer these tips to potential renters:

  • Do your homework!
  • See the property in person
  • Do not pay large sums of money up front

More tips for renters can be found here: http://har.com/tips

Reporting A Scam
If you find yourself the target of a rental scam, report it to local law enforcement. You can also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by filing a complaint on its website or call the FTC’s toll-free hotline: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Visit the HAR Facebook page on Monday, February 28 at 9 a.m., for #MemberFocusMonday, as Crime Stoppers of Houston CEO Rania Mankarious discusses rental scams, initiatives to prevent crime in the Houston area, and how Realtors can get involved. Go there now and click the “Get Reminder” button to be notified when the Facebook Live interview is starting.

Financial crime is on the rise. Crime Stoppers is hosting a free webinar on Financial Crimes on March 8, 2022 at 11:00am CST. Join Education Specialist Ernesto Reyes and Crime Stoppers of Houston Board Member and Region President of Independent Financial, Hazem Ahmed for a discussion on how to identify financial fraud, discover new tools to strengthen your person security, and uncover everyday financial tips for citizens and business owners alike. Sign up here: https://crime-stoppers.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMlf-urrDkqGNWd_bbHhrfjgImoUk66sYom

All webinars offered by Crime Stoppers are free-of-charge. Recordings of prior webinars can all be viewed at any time on the Crime Stoppers website here. Click on each past event to get links to recordings.

Webinars are made possible by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Spindletop Charities, Inc. Tuesday webinars are made possible by Spindletop Charities, Inc. and our Safe Community Program sponsors: Phillips 66, The Hamill Foundation, Harris County Commissioners Court – Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, Harris County Commissioners Court – Commissioner Tom Ramsey, Lawrence and Linda Levy, Cheniere Energy, Houston PetSet and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Foundation.

Additionally, Crime Stoppers offers free prevention presentations on this topic and many others. To schedule a presentation, visit this link.

Visit www.crime-stoppers.org for additional crime prevention resources and events.

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