Housing office helps newcomers know how to recognize, avoid rental scams
Rental scams often target areas surrounding military installations due to competitive rental markets and service members having unique housing situations. (Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii – The garrison’s housing services office wants to help incoming Soldiers and families know how to recognize and avoid the millions of fake off-post rentals.

According to Edward Labarge, director of CID’s Major Cybercrime Unit, scammers use a variety of tactics to steal people’s money before the victim determines the listing is fake.

“A typical rental scam works by a property being listed at a low price, usually below market rate, to get the attention of potential renters,” said Labarge. “Then the scammers will pressure the renters to pay a deposit and the first and last month’s rent to secure the rental.”

Army CID reports there are millions of fake listings for apartments, duplexes, and houses listed on classified ads and reputable rental sites worldwide. The scam is accomplished when rentals are advertised, but they do not actually exist, are no longer available, or are up for sale.

Although rental scams may target anyone, military service members may be more prone to falling victim due to frequent permanent-change-of-station moves and because they may not be available to view a property in person prior to living in the area, according to CID.

Labarge said one sign that a classified advertisement or website listing is a scam is an exceptionally low price. The high cost of housing in Hawaii makes low rents that scammers advertise particularly enticing.

“If it’s too good to be true, it usually is,” Labarge said. “Also, a good telltale sign that the listing is a scam is that the landlords won’t want to meet you in person or there is no screening process. Every landlord will want to make sure they meet you in person, no matter how brief, since they are making a major decision to trust that you’ll follow the rules of the lease.”

Warning Signs

  • They ask you to wire or send money through payment apps
  • They are ready to make a deal with no background information
  • They want you to sign or send money before you see the property

Protect Yourself

  • Compare rent amount to other rentals in the area
  • Do not rely solely on email to contact the owner and be wary of foreign telephone numbers
  • Conduct a reverse image search of the photos to see where else images are being used

For More Help

For questions or concerns, reach out to the Housing Services Office at (808) 655-3073 or usarmy.schofield.usag.mbx.housing-services-office@army.mil.

CID officials recommend that anyone who feels they are a victim of a rental scam can contact the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii CID office at (808) 787-8156. People can also contact the military police at (808) 655-5555 for the North region or (808) 438-7114 in the South region.