Because of rising rents, a tight inventory of affordable housing and the competitive environment that is created, many renters may act hastily to secure what they believe is “a steal.” But, renters will do well to beware of scammers. If it seems like a steal, it probably is, and it’s your money and sometimes your identity that gets stolen.
When perusing online and print ads, watch for these red flags:
Monthly rent seems considerably lower than other comparable properties.
The goal of scammers is to swindle as much money as fast as they can and lower rents attract more victims.
Landlord is out of town and only available via email or by phone.
Distance does a crook wonders. If the landlord or representative does not meet face to face, don’t do business.
Watch for typos, misspellings or poor grammar in ads or other in communications.
Many scammers operate from overseas. A poor command of the English language should be a red flag.
An application fee is being requested with your online application.
Never give money to anyone you don’t know or have not personally met.
A credit check fee and application is being requested online.
Double whammy! They’ll steal your money and quite possibly your identity.
A deposit in form of a cashier’s check is requested to hold the property.
Giving a deposit to hold a rental is common practice; however, never send money to someone you’ve never met or don’t know.
Beware of legitimate looking broker ads
How much safer can you get than by going through a broker? But who are you really dealing with? Before responding to a broker ad, look up the brokerage’s phone number yourself and call them.
Rental Shopping Do’s and Don’ts
- Do meet locally and do meet face to face.
- Do report suspicious or fraudulent listings to the owner of website you are visiting.
- Do file a report with the FTC if you feel you’ve been scammed. FTC Complaint Assistant
- Do file a report to the financial institution through which you sent money. In some cases, you might be able to get your money back if it hasn’t been collected by the recipient.
- Do keep detailed notes of the names, addresses, phone numbers, and financial institutions with whom you interacted.
- Don’t give your bank account, social security number or other financial information to an unknown source.
- Don’t ever send money or financial information to anyone you don’t know, never heard of or have never met in person.
- Don’t hesitate to call us if you have any doubts or suspicions.