In recent years, the numbers of rental scams have increased exponentially. With so many rental listings out there, how do you know a scam from a valid rental listing?
The majority of rental scams actually start as a valid rental listing. Scammers will peruse websites for available rentals, and “steal” the listing by re-posting it with their contact information and changing a few items. Usually, the price. If you see a rental listing for an unbelievable price it could be a scam. Others, will create “made up” addresses, be sure to check the address on listings that you find by searching the address online.
Scammers also tend to be “out of town” so they are unable to show you the property. They invite you to drive by and look in the windows. As well as fill out an application online (stealing your identity) Remember, most reputable property management companies have online applications, but if they are unable show you the property or meet with you in person, this is a MAJOR red flag that it could be a scam! NEVER fill out an application or send money before you have seen the property and/or met with or spoke with the landlord/owner.
So how can you protect yourself?
- Do NOT use cash to pay a deposit. Avoid using western union, bitcoin, MoneyGram etc. Cashier’s checks are easier to trace if it turns out to be a scam.
- NEVER rent sight-unseen. Seeing the apartment and meeting the landlord helps to verify the validity of the rental.
- Use a written lease. Verbal contracts are hard to prove in court. Scammers have been known to disappear but on the rare instance where they have been tracked down many have claimed that it was a gift. Protect yourself in writing.