At the beginning of May, the Fort Myers News-Press published an article about a medical traveler who fell victim to a housing scam—an all too familiar cautionary tale for this industry.
Logan Taylor, a registered nurse with over 10 years of experience, began her travel nurse career about a year ago. While she generally took contracts on the eastern side of Florida, the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic presented her the opportunity to work in a different part of the state.
To prep for her new assignment in southwest Florida, Taylor looked for furnished housing offering quiet and isolation. She said she wanted her own unit to minimize contact with neighbors during the pandemic. On Craigslist, she found a listing for a rental property in Fort Myers.
Taylor contacted the landlord, signed a lease and paid $1,958 in rent plus the security deposit. She thought her housing was all squared away. But then, strange things started happening.
The landlord’s requests didn’t completely match what the listing promised. The listing said parking was included in rent, but the landlord asked for a $400 parking fee. Taylor thought something was off but had to move forward to start her contract on time.
Once she reached what she thought was her new apartment complex, she found no landlord and a couple living in her unit. Taylor tried to call the phone number on the Craigslist listing, but it had been disconnected.
Taylor found another place to live and is continuing her assignment, but no one deserves to have uncertain housing during the pandemic—especially not medical professionals. Scams like this one can lead to significant financial losses and plenty of frustration. Scammers are capitalizing on the stress, vulnerability and confusion of the COVID-19 pandemic to target medical professionals.
Housing scams like this are on the rise, but they aren’t the only kind of scam medical travelers might face right now. Email phishing and other scams are preying on medical professionals too, but you can spot and deflect these scams with a few simple tips.
How to Identify Housing Scams
It’s not uncommon to get a bad gut feeling when a housing listing seems strange. If you know exactly what makes a listing feel off, it’s easier to trust yourself and avoid a scam. Often, fake listings will have emotional stories from the landlord to try to guilt you into renting. Real landlords are much more straightforward and don’t need to appeal to your emotions to get you to rent.
Another red flag is if the landlord only contacts you at strange hours with time-sensitive requests. They’re likely overseas running housing scams and need you to commit to renting quickly. You should never feel rushed into signing a lease. A reputable landlord would want you to feel comfortable renting from them, so take the safe route and move on if a landlord tries to pressure you.
How to Spot a Phishing Email
Phishing emails look like emails you would typically trust, but they’re from scammers trying to get your information. They try to trick you by looking like an email from your employer or a company you interact with frequently. Lately, phishing emails have targeted healthcare workers by disguising themselves as information about COVID-19.
These emails will present themselves as fake surveys or important messages that look like they’re from your hospital. Before you give any personal information to an email like this, double check that the email is genuine. It could be a phishing attack if the email address is unfamiliar, the email is poorly written, unusual files are attached or if the email creates a strange sense of urgency. Tell a supervisor or your facility’s IT team if an email seems suspicious to you. Being overly cautious is always better than falling victim to a scam.
It’s not fair that medical professionals are the target of scams during such a difficult time, but the best way to protect yourself is to know what a scam looks like. Keep an eye out for these warning signs and trust your gut. At LRS, we have your back and we are proud to support you now and always.