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Rental Scams: What You Need To Know

How to spot a Phishy Listing

Scammers often advertise rentals that do not exist or are not available to manipulate individuals into sending them money or information. Scammers know finding a place to rent is a difficult task and know good deals are hard to pass up in a competitive market. They will advertise on popular websites such as Zillow, Craigslist and Hotpads and may look legitimate. Here are some of the different ways that scammers target renters.

Hijacked Ads

Scammers may hijack real rental or real estate listing, change the email address and other contact information and post their listing on other websites. The listing may also have the original listing owner’s name so it is always important to verify the validity of the listing.

Phantom Rentals

Scammers often advertise listings for properties that are not for rent or do not exist. They attempt to lure you in through the promise of low rent and great amenities. They ask you to send money to secure the home before you find out it was a scam. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Signs of a Scam

Here are some signs to help you identify if it’s a scam:

They Tell You To Wire Money

Asking you to wire money is a definite sign that it is a scam. There should never be a good reason for you to wire funds to pay a security deposit, application fee, first month’s rent or vacation rental fee, even if they provide you with a contract. Once you wire your funds, there is no way to get it back.

They Want a Security Deposit or First Month’s Rent Before You’ve Met or Signed a Lease

Never send money to someone you have never met for an apartment that you haven’t seen. Be vigilant when they are asking you to send them money. Visit the property yourself or have someone you trust verify for you that it is indeed for rent and that the property is as advertised. Attempt to set up a meeting with the owner and do an internet search on the owner and the listing. If you find this property listed somewhere else with different information, it’s a good sign that it’s a scam.

They Say They’re Out of the Country

Scammers will always say they have a solution for you to get the keys. They may say that it will also involve a “lawyer” or “agent” who is working on their behalf. Some create fake keys. Never send money overseas. If you are unable to meet them in person, see the apartment or sign a lease, it’s definitely too good to be true. If the property is overseas, pay with a credit card or through credible rental website with its own payment systems to protect yourself.

How to Report a Scam

The first step is to flag or report the listing to the 3rd Party website where it is seen and/or posted (Craigslist, Hotpads, Zillow, etc.). Websites often have tags, links or buttons for you to report if a listing seems fake. The ads do not usually last more than a day or even a couple hours. Verifying immediately and flagging the rental listing makes it more difficult for the fraudulent parties to continue their work.

However, if you find yourself a victim of these scams, immediately contact your local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) to report the scam.

To Report Your Case:

Federal Trade Commision – www.ftc.gov

Internet Crime Complaint Center – www.ic3.gov

Additional Resources:

ReportScam – www.reportscam.com

RentalScams.org – www.rentalscams.org

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