It's time to move! As you scan apartment listings on Craigslist, you spy a great deal. The rental unit comes with amenities galore and lease payments well below market rates. You’re in a time crunch, so you make an appointment to tour the apartment.
Unbeknownst to you, the “landlord” (AKA the guy who’s leading you on a tour of the property) doesn’t own it. In fact, he’s a crook trolling for victims who will sign a bogus lease, hand over a deposit and first month’s rent, and ask no questions. Once the money exchanges hands, the fraudster's never to be seen again.
Rental scams are real
A recent Apartment List survey found that more than 40 percent of all renters have encountered a suspicious listing in their hunt for new housing. About 5 million people have reported financial losses from rental scams. And nearly one in 10 renters under 30 has lost money in this type of swindle, meaning younger adults may be more likely to experience rental fraud.
So how can you avoid rental scams?
- Don’t send payments by wire transfer. If the landlord or broker demands that you transfer money electronically, don't do it. This is a common tactic in fraudulent schemes.
- Visit the property first. Meet the landlord or broker in person. If that’s not feasible, ask a family member or friend to visit the property on your behalf.
- Confirm the identity of the landlord or agent. Verify that the rental isn’t listed under another broker’s name. Ask for documentation. Talk to current tenants and check public records to substantiate details.
- Don’t bow to pressure. If the “landlord” seems overeager or indifferent to normal safeguards (such as background checks), beware.
If you're a victim of a rental scam, contact local law enforcement and consider filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on ftccomplaintassistant.gov.