Picture this, you are looking for a rental home and after hours searching online you find the perfect place. Exactly what you were looking for and at an amazing price. You email the “owner” and he gets back to you right away. It turns out he lives a few hours away and can’t meet you to show you the place but he sends you more photos of the property. The problem is, someone else wants your dream rental so the “owner” pressures you to move fast. You tell him you want the house and he emails you the lease. He then asks you to wire a deposit and he will mail you the keys. But you never get the keys, you have been scammed.
It is so competitive trying to find a place to live in and looking for a rental home can be stressful for many reasons but one of them is the price. For many of you, the most important part of a rental is the costs, that is what can make you vulnerable into falling for a scam. Rental scams are on the rise, they are becoming a serious issue. Scams put you at risk of losing your cash and giving scammers your personal information. More than 43% of renters have found listings that seem fraudulent, and more than 5 million have been scammed.
How do scammers work?
Scammers will go online and look for houses at rent. They will steal the photos and address of those houses and create a new ad putting them up for rent as if they were the owners. They will use their own contact information like phone number and email. The monthly rent usually seems a bit low, which is what attracts so many people to the rental scam. When you ask to see the house, they always have some sort of excuse as to why they can’t show you the house. Then the “owner” will ask you to fill out an application and SUBMIT A DEPOSIT so that you can secure the home over anyone else. They play with your fear of losing the home to someone else. As soon as you send them money, you’ll never hear of them again.
How to avoid becoming a victim
- Search the property online to make sure it doesn’t appear with different phone numbers and prices
- Beware of “owners” that claim they are out of state and they can’t meet you face to face
- Incredible low prices – If the listing is too good to be true, it probably is
- Never wire money
- Don’t pay for anything without seeing the inside of a house
- Beware of high – pressure tactics / send the money quickly
The first thing I want to stress is that if a rental listing doesn’t seem right, for whatever reason, it probably isn’t. Scammers love using sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to put their ads on so I would advise you to not use those sites when looking for a rental. If you use Craigslist, you have to be careful. One recent survey estimates that 25 percent of Craigslist rental listings are actually frauds.