Houston Association of Realtors and Crime Stoppers of Houston Launches Public Awareness Campaign About Rental Scams

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

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

“They take what is often a legitimate home that gets listed and re-posted on another website at a price that seems too good to be true,” said HAR President Jennifer Wauhob. “When people are itching for that house, they send their first month’s rent and a deposit to a landlord and it turns out that person isn’t the landlord. He’s just a scammer taking their money. These scams happen on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other websites.

Authorities are urging tenants to be vigilant about verifying landlords before moving forward with any transactions. Scammers disproportionately target minorities, people who may not speak English, as well as people who may not be familiar with the rental process. “Please, even though we’re in a tight inventory market, don’t send money to anyone you haven’t met in person,” Wauhob said.

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 of rental scams through signs along major highways in Harris and surrounding counties. Clear Channel Outdoor donates advertising space on its digital signage network throughout the region and on traditional billboards to reach consumers on highways as well as in neighborhoods. These messages will be displayed throughout 2022 and will 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 target their victims, offer tips to help Houstonians avoid being victims of rental scams and how to report it,” said Houston Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious.

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

Do your homework!

• Find out who owns the property and if it is the same person or entity you are talking to.

• You can search county property records by address here: https://hcad.org/property-search/real-property/

• View the property in person

• Do not pay large sums of money in advance

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

Report 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 by calling the FTC’s toll-free hotline: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382- 4357).


Visit HAR’s Facebook page on Monday, February 28 at 9:00 a.m. for #MemberFocusMonday, as Crime Stoppers of Houston CEO Rania Mankarious discusses rental scams, Houston-area crime prevention initiatives and how estate agents can get involved. Go ahead now and click the “Get a Callback” button to be notified when the Facebook Live interview starts.

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

All webinars offered by Crime Stoppers are free. Recordings of previous webinars can all be viewed at any time on the Crime Stoppers website here. Click on each past event for 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.

Plus, Crime Stoppers offers free prevention presentations on this topic and more. To schedule a presentation, visit this link.

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

Mark M. Gagnon