Avoiding Fraud in the Rental Market
Rental scams have become increasingly common over the years. However, there are easy ways to avoid them. The ability to rent properties online makes it easier to find and rent a home. However, rental scammers have taken advantage of this and can make the rental market an uneasy place. Here are 7 red flags that you should avoid to stay away from fraud in the rental market.
Red Flags to Avoid
They Ask for Cash
One of the main red flags to lookout for is if they ask for everything in cash or a wire transfer. Cash can’t be traced so the scammer can’t be found once you learn of the fraud. Always use either checks, online payments, or other payment methods that leave a trail. Make sure to save all receipts and safely file them away, just incase. If they refuse to give you a receipt then we would recommend considering other rental options.
Sometimes, leasing companies will ask for the application fee or pet fee to be paid in cash. This is normal and shouldn’t raise any red flags. However, a security deposit or an entire month’s rent in cash should.
Signing Before Viewing
Always – and we mean always – view a property before signing a lease. Make sure that you are able to set up a showing to where you can view the interior and exterior of the property. Scammers can trick you into thinking that you are renting a property when in reality that property doesn’t even exist. A showing will also give you the opportunity to meet the landlord or owner in person.
Photos can be misleading, so viewing a property in person can also help you see what you’re getting yourself into. It also gives you the ability to evaluate the conditions of the property for yourself.
Suspicious Websites/ Listings
Making sure the website you are using is credible to begin with will lessen the chances of falling into a scammer’s trap. Using a property management company’s official website – like www.leasingandmanagement.com – is one of the safest ways to find a rental property. This is because the website will have the contact information, address, and rental history posted on their website to ensure their credibility.
It can get a bit tricky when using sites like Craigslist. There are many legit posts on websites like Craigslist but it is also an easy place for scammers to disguise themselves as individuals renting their homes. Always lookout for additional red flags when using sites such as these.
Learn more about avoiding Craigslist scams here!
The listing itself can also give clues to whether it’s a fraud or not. Lookout for listings that are too vague or have listing photos that have an MLS watermark. If it has one or both of these, chances are the listing information and photos were stolen from somewhere else.
To see examples of what authentic listings look like, check our listings here!
Too Good to be True
If a rental property is listed at an extremely low price, it’s probably too good to be true. Check the current market rates online and see if the prices match up. If there is a large difference between the two then it’s more than likely a fraud.
This can also play into the information that they ask from you. If they don’t want to do a background check then they probably aren’t valid
Sign a written lease or make sure there’s an option to e-sign a digital lease through a valid website like Docu-Sign. Thoroughly review the lease. Make sure it identifies the owner, has the address of the property listed, and doesn’t list anything that wasn’t previously discussed.
What to do if you’ve been Scammed
If you have been involved in a rental scam don’t panic. There are ways to handle the situation that will help catch the perpetrator and ensure that they can’t do it again.
- Call the police and give them all the details you have on the deal you had and the person that turned out to be a scammer
- Contact a lawyer and follow their instructions.
- Call the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Response Center toll-free hotline: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)
- Fill in the FTC online complaint form
- File a complaint on the Internet Crime Complaint Center
- Leave a negative review on the ad that describes what you went through. This will warn others of the trap.
Did we miss anything about fraud in the rental market? Let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.