When you have your sights set on an apartment or house to rent, you apply online and pay the deposit. Then communication from the property manager stops and despite your calls, you either get the run around or no response at all. You soon realize that the listing was never real, and you’ve just become the victim of a rental scam…
Renting scams are not uncommon and can happen to even the most experienced renters. The sad reality is that more than 5 million renters in the US have suffered financial loss because of a false listing. You could lose a couple of thousand dollars on a deposit or the first month’s rent if you happen to connect to a fraudster.
Because we look for apartments to rent or even a house to buy online, this makes us more susceptible to a scam. Con artists and fraudsters use technology in convincing ways, so we aren’t aware of a fake advert until it is too late.
The purpose of this guide is to help you identify a renting scam before you sign any paperwork, deposit money, or waste your precious time!
Let’s start by learning what a rental scam is…
What is a Rental Scam?
A rental scam is typically a false online advert for a property to rent. It is very appealing and looks authentic including images of a property and a private contact or even branding for an agency. Unfortunately, it is designed to lure you in and usually includes low rent, low deposits, and other deals that many renters would find interesting.
This is not to say that all adverts offering very low rent or rental deals are fake, not at all! The scam advertisement is considered too good to be true!
False Listings During the Pandemic
Unfortunately, the pandemic hasn’t helped matters at all when it comes to slowing these types of fraudsters down; in fact, these types of fake listings seem to be on the rise! More people, of all ages, are being preyed upon during a very vulnerable time in their lives.
Not only are renters being targeted but property buyers too. Scammers have been following the property market trend and targeting people who are looking for affordable rentals, short-term rentals, and real estate deals.
In 2020, more than 13 000 renters fell victim to online listing scams. As these numbers continue to climb, the best step you can take is to recognize the signs of a false rental listing, so you don’t become a victim.
Let’s take a closer look at an example of an online listing scam.
Renter Caught By Fake Apartment Listing
John was searching for an apartment to rent after sharing a place with his roommate for some time. He visited some of the more popular websites and came across a Michigan apartment that he decided to apply for. The so-called agent moved the application process along pretty quickly and John decided to sign the “lease” (which was fake) and pay the security deposit into the provided account. When he contacted the agent to meet at the apartment that very week, his calls were ignored, and nobody showed up to the appointment. Even after contacting an authentic rental agent in the area, John was unable to recuperate the funds that he lost.
John had become a victim of an online rent scam.