You hear about rental scams far too often, and the scariest part is knowing that a scam is probably happening in your neighborhood right now. Most renters have most likely come across an ad that sounded a little bit off, yet a whopping 5.2 million renters have fallen victim to a rental scam.
There’s a lot to consider when looking for a rental property. Today, we’re going to share with you the 7 signs to identifying and learning how to avoid rental scams on sites like Craigslist, and what you should do if you get into one.
Types of Rental Scams
Rental scams can be found in many different forms, and there’s lots of signs that are tell-tale indicators of a scammer. Rental scammers have 3 types of personas they normally take on.
The Phantom Renter
This scammer will create a fake Craigslist ad for a place that doesn’t exist. They will normally target renters who need accommodations quickly, and will create a property that seems almost “too good to be true.” Double check to ensure that the address is real by using Google Maps to locate the property, and inspect the pictures from both the inside and outside the property to see if they match.
The Overseas Renter
This rental scam normally requires you to send funds for things like rent and damage deposits to your landlord before you move in. Seems pretty normal right? What isn’t normal is not getting to see the property or ever meeting the property owner before you move in. The scammer will explain that because they’re overseas, they can’t meet or let you see the property. This scammer is pretty common with Airbnb rental scams.
The Hijacked Renter
These scammers will take an already existing ad and recreate it as a different property. Check listings on other rental platforms, and vacation sites like Airbnb to make sure you don’t see any duplicating pictures or pictures of the same property with different angles.
7 Things To Look For When Avoiding Rental Scams
In order to find legit postings for rental properties, avoid these red flags:
1. If the ad or listing is asking for personal or financial information before you have signed any agreements, it’s probably a scam.
Never give out personal information to someone you’ve never met, or someone you do not have contractual obligation with.
2. If the listing seems almost “too good to be true,” or doesn’t compare to the other listings in your area, it’s probably a scam.
Even though we all want to get the best and competitive prices on the market, avoid being frugal with a rental property. A cheaper listing, or a listing with extensive amenities in the agreement are normally how scammers entice renters.
3. If the individual that posted the listing cannot meet in person, doesn’t have a property manager that can meet you, or will not let you tour the property before signing, it’s probably a scam.
Remember that if there is a property manager who’ll be your main contact in this process, ensure that they are from a reputable company. False property managers are also how many Airbnb scams start. This is a common sign of the Hijacked Renter.
4. If the landlord seems “too eager” for you to move into the property or they seem a little pushy when trying to get you to move in, it’s probably a scam.
Landlords aren’t going to try and make you feel as though you have to move in. In fact, many landlords will ask for references and may even conduct a background check through your local police department to ensure you’re a good renter.
5. If the ad or listing has poor grammar, spelling mistakes, and weird variants, it’s probably a scam.
Even if the posting seems pretty normal, looking out for something as simple as a variant spelling (for instance, the American spelling of color versus the British spelling of colour) can detect a scammer. Be sure to check the spelling on emails and texts as well. While this is usually a sign of a rental scam, remember not everyone is going to have perfect grammar, so take this with a grain of salt.
6. If the ad has pictures of a property you’ve seen elsewhere, the address doesn’t exist, or the pictures don’t seem to match, it’s probably a rental scam.
Check multiple renting platforms and vacation rental sites to see if the listing is posted anywhere else. If you do find a repeated listing, ask the person if they’ve posted their listings on any other sites. Be especially wary of the pictures and picture angles in these postings. This tactic is most commonly used by the Hijacked and Phantom Renters.
7. If the landlord is asking for payments to be wired or transferred through a money app, it’s probably a scam.
There’s lots of ways a scammer can try and convince you to send money before you’ve met or have signed any agreements. Many will use an emotional tactic or will have an excuse as to why they can’t meet. This is how you catch an Overseas Renter.
Even if you’ve found a legit rental property and have paid landlords through money apps like Venmo or CashApp before, setting up a Money Order with your bank will also ensure your transfers are secured and are recorded. This can also keep record of your payments and can help your credit score!
What To Do If You Get Yourself Into a Rental Scam
Remember to look out for those 7 red flags when finding a new rental property, and always report suspicious ads to publishers if you come across one. If you do find yourself in the middle of a rental scam, a lawyer can let you know all of your options, and help you navigate the different steps you need to take such as:
- Reporting the ad and contacting the publisher.
- Calling the local police and filing a report.
- Filing a complaint with the FTC.
- Reviewing the red flags that may have been missed.
- Discussing possible forms of compensation or what options there are if you seek to sue the scammer.
A lawyer can also help share your story with others so more people can avoid making mistakes with finding rental properties. If you have any questions on what a landlord is legally allowed to do during the rental process, call one of our Premier Partners for a free consultation at 1 (844) 980-1574.