September 28, 2023

If a Zillow or Craigslist residence itemizing sounds too good to be true, it in all probability is.

Rental scams have gotten more and more frequent as unhealthy actors benefit from folks determined to search out an inexpensive place to reside.

A person in New Bedford, Massachusetts, was indicted in September for allegedly conning 15 folks out of $22,050 in bogus rental deposits. Most fraud victims lived in Spanish-speaking and immigrant communities, and had been searching for inexpensive housing.

Nationwide, 11,578 folks reported dropping greater than $350 million resulting from rental scams in 2021, in line with the FBI. That’s a 64% enhance from the earlier 12 months.

Right here’s easy methods to spot a rip-off and preserve your self protected.

How Do Rental Scams Work?

Scammers will typically take actual rental listings of properties on the market or lease and repost them at all-time low costs.

Hijacked property listings use an actual tackle however change the contact data with the scammer’s e mail and cellphone quantity.

Different fraudsters use the property proprietor or dealer’s actual title to create a faux e mail to make the con extra convincing.

Scammers strain potential candidates to ship cash over instantly, often as a deposit or utility price, to carry the property.

However when it’s time to schedule a walk-through or choose up the keys, the supposed “landlord” is nowhere to be discovered.

5 Methods to Keep away from Rental Scams

Our common recommendation: If you happen to can’t meet in particular person, see the residence, or signal a lease earlier than you switch cash, preserve trying.

Listed here are 5 methods to safeguard your self in opposition to rental scams.

1. Analyze the Advert

If the worth for that spacious downtown loft appears too good to be true, it could be.

Scammers typically publish fabulous trying leases at all-time low costs to get as many candidates as potential.

Try the spelling and grammar of the advert. Listings with grammatical errors or unusual verbiage are sometimes tell-tale indicators of fraudulent postings.

2. Dig Into the Particulars

First issues first: Google the tackle to verify the place exists.

Subsequent, do a Google search on the property house owners, actual property agent and/or property administration firm. See if the rental firm has unhealthy critiques or warnings that it might be concerned in a rip-off.

If you happen to discover the identical advert listed below a special title on one other web site, that’s a crimson flag.

3. View the Unit in Particular person

Sending cash to somebody you’ve by no means met in particular person for an residence you haven’t seen isn’t a good suggestion.

If you happen to can’t go to an residence in particular person, see if a pal or member of the family can scope it out for you.

Be sure that to satisfy with the property supervisor or agent at the unit. In the event that they don’t have a key to the rental (for no matter purpose), it’s time to get suspicious.

Reside out of city and might’t tour the property in-person? Arrange a video name. Be sure that they provide you a full tour and don’t allow them to rush you off the cellphone.

4. Assume Earlier than You Venmo

Scammers will typically require a safety deposit, utility price, first month’s lease or trip rental price to “reserve your spot.”

You could be tempted to ship over the cash if you happen to reside in a scorching housing market and your lease expires quickly. However significantly, suppose twice.

When you hit ship on cost apps like Zelle, Venmo, Money App or PayPal, it’s pretty much as good as gone. It might be troublesome if not outright inconceivable to get your a reimbursement when you notice you’ve been scammed.

By no means pay with wire transfers, cryptocurrency or reward playing cards both. If somebody tells you to pay this fashion, it’s a positive signal of a rip-off.

5. Don’t Settle for Excuses

Don’t let somebody strain you into sending cash earlier than you may go to the property in particular person.

Scammers could roll out a laundry listing of the explanation why they will’t present the residence earlier than you set down your hard-earned money.

They’re out of city or in another country is an enormous one.

Be skeptical if the poster encourages you to do a drive-by as a substitute. Peaking via the home windows isn’t the identical as getting a tour. The present proprietor could not even remember that their house is listed as a rental.

If the poster does present as much as the rental, ensure they’ve the keys. Don’t accept “I’m getting the locks modified.”

How one can Report Rental Scams

If you happen to spot a suspicious rental publish on a web site like Zillow or Craigslist, report it on to the web site.

If you happen to’re the sufferer of a rental rip-off, instantly report any switch of funds to your monetary establishment. You must also report the crime to your native legislation enforcement company and the Federal Trade Commission.

You may as well file a report with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Rachel Christian is a Licensed Educator in Private Finance and a senior author for The Penny Hoarder.