Identify theft. There are new stories every day that tell of it occurring. It has the potential to be a huge problem for landlords and managers. The question we all need to ask is “who is this applicant” when renting a property.
What Can Go Wrong When Identity Is Not Confirmed?
- There was an applicant who was accepted based on their great rental history and fairly good credit. In reality, the landlord had rented to a burglar who routinely rents homes, and breaks into neighbors homes. It does not take long to observe your neighbors living patterns and this renter was an expert at it. Only after he has skipped did everyone put together he was not the person who had applied.
- An applicant with a violent felony history used a false name, and ID, to secure a rental. After a few months he had a dispute with his neighbor because the tenant’s dog was using the neighbor’s yard for his business. When a discussion about this situation escalated out of control the tenant pulled a knife and attacked the neighbor. Fortunately, the neighbor’s wife saw what was happening and called 911. She then came out with a shovel to attack the tenant. When the true identify of the tenant was discovered, the landlord was sued by the neighbor for liability of not fully vetting his tenants.
Stories like this are scary. Sadly, they can easily happen to you.
There are steps that you should follow to prevent a scammer from becoming your next tenant. They mostly focus on making it very difficult for a thief to get through the application process.
Recommended Steps to Stop a Fraud From Becoming Your Next Tenant
Require a Photo ID
A photo ID issued by a government authority. This step alone should stop many thieves in their tracks and send them scooting to an easier target. Make it clear up front that a photo ID is required with the completed application. Then copy both sides of that ID and keep it on file.
Review the photo and the applicant. Make sure they match.
Complete Multiple Types of Background Checks On Your Applicant
including employment, rental, and criminal screenings in your approval process. The volume of questions asked makes it harder for a false identity thief to know everything. So what if the applicant feels like it is a lot? Actually call or request written verification from the past and present employers and landlords.
Here is an idea if you have any concern about who is the applicant. Basic applications should include a credit check. Actually use the information obtained from that credit check and interview the applicant. Confirm details that only the real applicant could know. An example: “Mr. Applicant-you have a credit card with a local bank. What bank, what is the approximate outstanding balance, and how much do you pay monthly?”
Take a Picture of Their Car and License Plate
If you have concerns that the results of the screening are not making sense. Or the image on the photo ID is not matching. Try this. Get a picture of the vehicle and license plate that the applicant drives. Confirm the registration. Our application requests the plate number of the vehicle that will be parked at the rental. Do they match? Ask the applicant for a copy of the registration if you really are concerned that the application information is not adding up.
When completing the walk through inspection with the new applicant take lots of pictures of the condition of the home but have the tenant stand in for some of the pictures. Tell the tenant it is standard procedure to photograph the tenant in the property to provide proof they attended the walk through. If the tenant will not allow their picture taken, maybe you might want to hold off on handing them the keys that day.
Learn What is Real and What Is Not
This step is much harder. Computers and fine printers now allow thieves to create authentic looking photo ID’s to go along with their new identity. From a bank statement to an employment letter these crooks can create just about any fake document that you request, This is what identity thieves thrive on…they are experts at creating a new identity!
So, the landlord/manager must be smarter than the thief!
Verify and Verify Again
There is only one way to outsmart the thief. Verify! Yes, it is an extra step but check and verify any and all documents. You may have other tricks but the point here is do not assume your applicant is who they say they are. Verify, verify, verify!
Using some of these ideas, you can significantly lower your risk of being taken for a ride.
photo credit: Identity Thief as Paris via photopin (license)