Top Rental Scams - The 5 Most Common Schemes
The rental industry is not immune to crooks, let's face it. In reality, you may have encountered a rental scam or gone through some top rental scams on your own, or heard about others' from friends, family, and coworkers. All of us are susceptible to con artists, despite the fact that we never imagine it would happen to us.
Fortunately, there are measures we may take to safeguard against con artists, from the most basic to the most sophisticated. Learn how to prevent the most prevalent rental scams by reading about signs of top rental scams, some common types, and how you can avoid them.
It's worth the effort to search for a rental with intelligence. Here are several indicators that you may be the victim of top rental scams:
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This is the surest indication of fraud. Wiring funds to cover a security deposit, application fee, first month's rent, or vacation rental cost is never a wise move. Even if they send you a contract first, it remains true. Sending cash or sending money by wire transfer is equivalent; once sent, neither can be retrieved.
Sending money to someone you've never met in person for an apartment you haven't seen is never a good idea. Ask a reliable person to go and verify that an apartment or house is actually available for rent and matches the listing if you are unable to go yourself. Search the owner and listing in addition to scheduling a meeting. If the same advertisement appears under several names, that's a red flag that it might be a hoax.
Be wary of rental listings featuring watermarks, which identify the photo's owner. Scammers steal photographs from real estate agents' local multiple listing service. The rental poster doesn't feature the original photo with an MLS watermark because they're not affiliated with the property.
The FTC advises that scammers often replicate a rental ad word-for-word and publish it on a different site, changing the email address or phone number. Property owners, agents, and occupants often don't discover the address and images have been used until a victim arrives at their door thinking they're moving in.
If a rental description seems ambiguous or confusing, it's likely because the individual who submitted it has never been there. Omitting utility facts or listing an attraction more than a mile away as within walking distance may suggest that the poster is unfamiliar with the region or doesn't expect you to be.
If you contact an online rental listing and the person who responds doesn't immediately offer to show you the place or discuss virtual or video tours, it's a clue they don't own it. Scammers may pose as renters seeking a sublet or lease with a small landlord to obtain financial information. It may be a scam if they don't want to see the property first.
If you get a call and are concerned the person isn't renting or linked with a rental you enquired about, call them back at their listed number and ask to tour the property.
You want a landlord or management who seeks reliable tenants. If a supposed landlord wants you to sign a lease with only email correspondence and no financial background, they may be hoping for a one-time payment and then disappear before you relocate.
The FTC advises against paying a security deposit or the first month's rent before signing a lease and meeting the landlord. Before confirming the space is available, the person you're working with is linked with the property, and the contract makes you the legal tenant, never submit any amount beyond an application fee.
However, they have a strategy to get the keys in your possession. It might entail a lawyer or a "agent" advocating for them. Even some con artists make bogus keys. Don't send them money from abroad.
Keep looking if you are unable to meet in person, inspect the flat, or sign a lease before making a payment. What happens if the rented property is abroad? Your best bets for security are using a credit card or a trustworthy vacation rental website with its own payment mechanism.
Have you found a wonderful rental listing on a rental site? Yes, probably. That posting may be a hoax. Scammers replicate apartment listings and post them. To make this dream apartment appear like a steal, they can drop the listed price by hundreds or thousands of dollars. They often change the contact information.
- Red flag - The fraudster will say they've got a lot of interest in the apartment and that you need to pay a deposit quickly to reserve it before someone else does. They may even deny to virtual tour the flat without payment.
- How to avoid this rental scam? - Take a virtual tour of the unit before paying any money. The landlord may claim to be out of town, overseas, or having a family emergency to avoid showing the unit. Avoid scenarios where you're asked to pay without meeting the landlord or seeing the flat first, even if they seem plausible.
Landlords often run background checks on new tenants. Landlords must verify tenants' identities before signing a lease. Most rental application fees include background checks. However, some scammers will demand a huge sum to pay the cost of a background check.
- Red flag - Avoid landlords or scammers who charge more than $30–60 for background checks. Rental fraud.
- How to avoid this rental scam? - Avoid this rental fraud by never giving payment for the background check. Consult a trustworthy real estate agent or broker if something feels off during the application process.
Some scammers will rent an apartment without a contract. Do not! Verbal agreements are rare and suspicious. Month-to-month leases normally require a pre-lease agreement. Unleased agreements may be rental fraud.
Due to COVID-19, many tenants are virtual touring, remote lease signing, and avoiding landlords and property managers, making this rental fraud more likely.
- Red flag - The landlord will make an excuse for not using a rental agreement when you ask for one, indicating a scam.
- How to avoid this rental scam? - Avoid this renting fraud by requiring a lease or rental agreement. You'll be glad you requested a lease. Before signing a lease, read and ask questions.
This rental fraud is sneakier. Luxury facilities will be listed to increase rent. After signing the lease and moving in, the renter finds the amenities missing.
Red flag - The lease won't specify perks. The listing will not show facilities like a gym, pool, or laundry room. Amenity images will be copied from other listings.
How to avoid this rental flag? - Avoid this rental fraud by touring the building and unit. Request a live video tour if you can't tour in person, and make sure the unit door number matches the rental apartment. To check for copied photographs, use Google's reverse image search.
Bait-and-switch listings lure renters for one unit, then flip the lease property details to trap them in a different unit. Rental scams target uninformed renters. Like app terms and conditions, many tenants speed through the lease signing procedure and miss the property address.
Red flag - You're pressured to sign right away.
How to avoid this rental scam? - Read your lease, including the fine language, to avoid this renting scam. Check the address and, most crucially, the unit number. Read everything before signing.
FBI warns of rental scams | GMA
Avoid apartment renting scams by following these measures.
The current tenant usually knows the most about the flat and landlord. Ask about utilities, rent increases, and anything else the landlord might not want to say. If the present tenants are comfortable, ask about the security deposit and lease terms to know what you're getting into.
Don't give an unverified listing your SSN or bank account routing number. Before sending cash or Venmo or PayPal, verify the listing and tour it. Sign a lease before paying a security deposit.
An ad that stays on a listing for over a month may be a tactic to attract people and collect application fees.
Check photographs for watermarks and copyright information. If so, verify the source.
If the listing doesn't provide an address, contact the landlord or property manager for it and put it into Google Maps to make sure it's the same building as in the photographs.
Money safety is best. If you suspect fraud, see a professional. Although it can happen to anyone, most landlords are not aiming to swindle you. Renting an apartment requires vigilance against rental fraud. A certified real estate agent is the safest option to rent.
If you are requested to submit money or provide banking information without signing a lease, you may be scammed. Send money only after examining the property in person or digitally. Before giving your bank account or social security number online or over the phone, verify the landlord's identification and get a written agreement.
Report a rental fraud immediately. The listing website usually allows this. The listing can be investigated and removed if fraud is reported. State consumer protection or the Internet Crime Complaint Center can also investigate rental scams.
You may be able to recover funds sent to the scammer. Your bank and scammer's traceability will determine this. If you suspect fraud, notify your bank to protect your account details and prevent additional withdrawals.
Search public records at your local tax assessor or county clerk for tax default notices or property history. 'Find property owner by address' may be in their internet database. With the address and a fee, you may find the current owners.
Scams are a widespread occurrence, and the real estate industry is not exempt. You may have seen a friend or loved one fall prey to a scam, or even worse, you may have been the victim of one yourself.
It might be difficult to distinguish between honest and dishonest advertisements because scammers' techniques and technology both advance. Therefore, it is crucial to educate yourself about the top rental scams, particularly if you plan to rent a house.