Rental Listing Scams! Read Before You Search

As you begin researching new apartments or homes, please educate yourself on listing scams and online fraud. We urge you to be vigilant in researching the legitimacy of any potential listings and perform all appropriate due diligence.
How Do Rental Listing Scams Work?
Found a deal that’s too good to turn down? Have the owners moved to another state and can’t show you the property? Is someone asking you to send them money via Western Union or Moneygram? These are possible signs of rental listing scams used to defraud users into wiring money or giving up personal information.

Scammers use a variety of tools and methods to post fraudulent listings on many internet listing sites. One method includes manually listing available properties by copying existing listings and posting them with new prices. They also take existing for-sale properties and post it as a rental listing. In addition, they use listing management tools and syndicate the fraud across many different sites.

Once you’ve contacted a scammer, they usually ask for a few things — information, urgency, money through Western Union or Moneygram. Stop there. (If there is an opportunity to flag the listing – particularly if you are requested to wire money – do so immediately).

RELATED: Download Our Copy of  Truth in Renting

How To Spot and Avoid Rental Scams
Below is a list of best practices on spotting and avoiding scams. Renter beware. Be vigilant in protecting your private information and review these tips:

1. The easiest sign of a rental scam is when someone asks you to wire money via Western Union or Moneygram. Scammers usually ask for a deposit or first month’s rent before you even see the property. Don’t send money for whatever reason.

2. The owner is out of the country on a mission, job opportunity, or military service. Always meet the landlord or agent in-person and at the property. If they can’t meet you there or show you the property, then it’s possibly a scam. Good idea is to always have a friend or family member with you.

3. The listing is significantly less than nearby similar properties. Beware. If it seems too good to be true, then chances are that it’s a scam.

4. Emails from scammers are often littered with grammatical mistakes and typos. If the email is difficult to read, lengthy, or includes a sad story, then it’s possibly a scam.

5. Research the email address and phone number of the landlord or owner on Google. You might find that someone else has already posted a report on this individual.

6. Don’t fill out an application until you’ve seen the property. Some apartment communities will offer legitimate applications via a property’s website, but don’t submit an application with personal information until you’ve verified the property exists.

7. Never, under any circumstances, send money to anyone without securing a lease and confirming the property manager has legal right to rent the property.

RELATED: Download Our Copy of  Truth in Renting

Even if you are going through a reputable broker; there is a chance they have been lied to by the person who hired them.  In addition, it is sad to say, some Agents are less than thorough.  When you are presented with a lease you have a 3 day Attorney Review period.  During these 3 days the rental cannot go to anybody else.  Take advantage of these 3 days to research the name on the lease, ask your Agent to confirm that the name on the lease matches the name on the property tax record.  If not, ask why.  If it is a privately owned rental in a complex with a board or management company; call them.  Ask if there have ever been any issues with the owner.  And if you have access to an Attorney, their expertise is an added plus.  Due all possible due diligence.

RELATED: Download Our Copy of  Truth in Renting

What To Do If You Fall Victim A Rental Scam or Online Fraud
If you believe you were a victim of fraud, please contact your local authorities, the FTC, and the IC3.

If you feel you are the victim of a fraudulent lease having gone through a reputable broker; contact the Real Estate Commission immediately.