Rental fraud has been reported across the country and it’s on an increase.
Rental fraud occurs when someone is claiming to be a property manager or landlord, in certain cases the actual landlord, tries to rent a property that doesn’t exist. Normally the home is listed for substantially less than market prices. Everyone wants a bargain and they are attractive. You have to d your due diligence.
Scammers try to collect an application fee, security deposit or rent before the prospective renter recognizes the scam.
If the deal is too good to be true. It’s probably not true.
What are the Most Common Types of Rental Fraud?
- Bait-and-Switch: A different property is advertised than the available rental, and the scammer tries to collect a deposit or get a lease signed for this property.
- Phantom Rentals: A scam-artist makes up listings for places that don’t exist or aren’t rentals, and tries to lure renters with low prices.
- Hijacked Ads: A fake landlord posts advertisements for a real property with altered contact information. Homes for sale are often re-listed as rentals in this type of fraud.
- Missing Amenities: A real rental is listed as having features and amenities it lacks in order to collect a higher rent. The leasing agent tries to get renters to sign the lease before they notice the missing amenities.
- Already Leased: A real or fake landlord attempts to collect application fees or security deposits for a rental that is already leased.
- Short term rentals: Scammers will try to rent rooms thru Craig’s list, airbnb, etc. Sometimes the scammer has rented the home themselves (but may have stopped paying their rent) or sometimes they gain access to vacant homes.
Renters moving from other cities often sign leases sight unseen. If you are unable to visit a property, ask a Realtor®, a trusted friend or family member to visit for you.
What Do Fake Listings Look Like?
Fraudulent listings tend to look very similar to legitimate listings, which is partly why so many renters fall for scams. In some instances, scam artists copy real listings and just change the contact information, making fraud difficult to detect.
- The deal is too good to be true.
- The rent is very low, and the landlord offers to pay all utilities.
- Listings Lack an Address or Pictures
- The actual address is not disclosed.
- They ask you for money or a credit card number before you view the property.
- They ask you to wire money.
- Don’t send money for a rental overseas.
- They ask that you send money via money transfer services like Money gram
- The landlord is out of town or out of the country.
- Advertises No-Screening Process or credit check. This is a BIG red-flag.
- Ads for the property have grammatical and spelling errors, or overuse capital letters
- The ad uses uncommon spellings of words, like “favour” instead of “favor”
- The owner or agent isn’t able to let you enter the home or apartment or charges you a fee to view it
- The owner or agent uses high-pressure sales tactics. They may urge you to rent quickly before someone else gets the property
Take the following steps before making any payments to avoid losing money from a rental scam:
- Use a Real Estate agent. It does not cost you anything.
- Google the address. A lot of times the home is listed but it’s typically listed for more. Is the contact info for the rental the same? If it’s different beware.
- Conduct an image search of your property. An imposter may use images of your property to create their own listings, as part of a scam.
- If an address and exterior pictures are provided, you can verify the rental using Google Street View. Is it different? If the home and pictures match, keep researching.
- Visit the Property in Person: Visiting a property is the best way to detect fraud because you will be to make sure the home matches the listings details and pictures. This is not the only thing you should do. Scammers have access to keys at times.
- When visiting the property ask for identification. Rental agents should have photo ID badges issued by the company that owns or manages the property. Property owners should not have an issue providing an ID so you can make sure the person showing the home is the owner.
- Watch for warning signs and avoid situations where you feel pressured or uncomfortable.
- Be Careful with Confidential Information. Rental applications generally require providing confidential information, such as a social security number or bank account number. Be very careful. Do not provide any thing before you verify the rental.
- Do not make any payments without seeing the property.
- Verify that you are dealing with the actual owner or manager of a property. Scammers have been known to show others’ properties to victims.
- If you find that the home is owned by a large rental company, call the company and confirm that this rental or room rental is legitimate. Keep in mind that these large rental companies do not allow room rentals.
- DO NOT pay a security deposit or any other deposit until you have signed a lease.
- DO NOT share your credit card information before signing a lease, if ever.
- DO NOT Pay with cash, wire transfer, or money transfer services to cover deposits and fees prior to viewing and deciding upon a property.
- Confirm all advertised features. Verify everything in the advertisement, or promised verbally, is spelled out in the lease before signing or paying a deposit. Once you’ve signed the lease, you are most likely bound to the home, as is.
- Get a copy of the lease, signed by both you and the property owner/manager.
- Get your prospective landlord’s name, home address and telephone number to verify them through the following resources:
- City or County property records, local Clerk of Court or Register of Deeds – information can often be found online
- A building’s manager, if there is one. Call the office and confirm that this is legit.
- Department of Consumer Affairs and BBB to see if any complaints have been filed against the landlord
- Ask for references from the landlord, preferably from former tenants. Ask to Speak to Current Tenants.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, contact your local law enforcement agency.
Find out more in a news release from the Federal Trade Commission. To report a listing on this service that you think is a scam, click here .