Rental scams are one of the fastest-growing types of fraud nationwide. With help from the internet, apartment-searching is easier than ever. Unfortunately, that convenience has a price. Anyone can list a unit “for rent” for any price. While most listings are legitimate, some are not. With a few pictures and emails, scammers can convince you they actually have a luxury apartment available.
Here are three ways to keep your money safe from rental scammers:
1.) Know what ‘too good to be true’ looks like
Check rental prices of similar-sized apartments in the area. Research the average renting price in most major cities. If an apartment is being offered for considerably cheaper than most others, it’s probably a scam.
If the landlord has a supposedly tragic reason for the low rental cost, don’t be fazed. Odds are the story isn’t true. If it is, let someone else help your poor landlord-to-be.
If the posting is written in poor English, be cautious. Legitimate companies usually use listing agents who have experience writing postings; individual lessors are rare. If you’re asked to wire money – especially if you haven’t seen the apartment yet – that’s a scam. “Showing fees” and “pre-screening charges” do not exist. Don’t ever rent an apartment, sign a lease, or pay a deposit without seeing the actual apartment.
2.) Guard your personal information
Don’t give anyone unnecessary personal information. Your email address and phone number are important for communication–your credit card number is not. You may need to leave a copy of your driver’s license with a rental agent while touring an apartment, but no one else should need personal information prior to showing you a house. Anyone asking to run a credit check before showing you a property wants you as a victim, not a tenant.
Wherever possible, try to work with someone local. Ask the person offering the apartment to meet you in person and show you the property so you can see it’s real and not inhabited by someone who doesn’t want to move.
3.) Trust … but verify
If something seems fishy, research it. Search online for the name of the person or company listing the property to verify that they’re actually listing it.
There are many online forums dedicated to outing scammers. If you notice something off-putting about your potential landlord, add a post and move on.
Wherever there’s money changing hands, someone will take advantage. Scammers can quickly produce photographic proof that a place exists and then ask you to pay them immediately. As a renter, you’re taking risks, but following these rules can keep you safe. With a little caution and a lot of common sense you can find your dream apartment.