smartconsumer: Resisting Rental Scams - Know

Resisting Rental Listing Scams

{What to Know} {What to Do}


Apartment and rental house hunting can be an adventure. It can also be a real balancing act. You have to think about price, location, and how much room there is. You must also plan for parking costs and heating bills. Many renters now use websites with rental listings to find an apartment or rental home.

How rental listing scams work

These scams play out in different ways. Some scammers hijack someoneís real rental listing. They change the email address or other contact information, and place the changed ad on a different website. The changed ad may use the name of the person who posted the original ad. Other rip-off artists make up listings for places that arenít for rent or donít exist. They try to lure you in with the promise of extra low rent. Their goal is to get your money before you find out.

Being savvy when youíre in search of a rental takes some extra effort, but with your money at stake, itís well worth it. Here are some signs you may be dealing with a scam:

  • They want you to wire money.

This is the surest sign of a scam. Thereís never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, or first monthís rent. Wiring money is the same as sending cash ó once you send it, you have no way to get it back.

  • They want a security deposit or first monthís rent before youíve met or signed a lease.

Itís never a good idea to send money to someone youíve never met in person for an apartment you havenít seen. If you canít visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that itís for rent. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the landlord and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, thatís a clue it may be a scam.

  • They say theyíre out of the country.

But they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or ďagentĒ working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys. Be skeptical, and donít send money overseas. If you canít meet in person, see the apartment, or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking.

Content Last Modified on 2/13/2013 10:33:51 AM