Are you moving to a new location? Set yourself up for success by guarding against fraudsters. If you’re in the market for a rental property, here’s what you need to know to avoid becoming a victim of rental property scammers.
What to Watch For
It pays to know that there are fraudulent or misleading listings and agents out there before searching for a rental unit. Scammers use a variety of tricks and tactics to steal money from unsuspecting renters, such as:
- Posting ads on websites for rental properties that don’t actually exist or for properties that are already rented by someone else.
- Promising military discounts and other incentives when they’re not available.
- Requesting that you wire money for the application fee, security deposit—even the first month’s rent—before you even see the property.
- Stealing real ads and changing the email address or contact information and then posting those listings on a different website.
- Posing as legitimate rental agents and using stolen keys to gain access to properties.
How to Recognize a Scam
Want to know what to watch for? Here are five tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help you spot a rental property scam:
- Search online for the name of the rental company plus words like "review," "complaint" or "scam." If you find negative comments, consider choosing a different company and/or property.
- Visit the rental unit and ask to see the agent's photo ID badge. They should have identification supplied by the property owner or manager.
- Listings can appear on rental company sites and online services like Craigslist®, Trulia® and Zillow®. If you see a rental on an online listing service, search the address to make sure it also appears on the rental company’s website. If not, it could be a fake.
- Look for signs at the rental property with the name of the owner or manager. Then call the company before signing a lease or making a deposit.
- If someone asks you to pay with cash, wire transfers or gift cards, it's a red flag.