Online Rental Safety Guide

Rental Search Safety Tips

While we do everything we can to help and protect renters using, occasionally we hear about unusual or suspicious interactions with property owners who have listed rentals on our site. For this reason, we have compiled the following list of tips for a safer online rental experience.

If it seems "too good to be true," it probably is.
Does the monthly rent for the apartment seem unusually low? Investigate similar apartments in your desired area to determine the approximate rent you should expect to pay. Trust your instincts, never send money without seeing the rental, and walk away from any suspicious situations.

Check out who you're dealing with online.
Make sure to meet your prospective landlord or property manager in person before deciding to rent an apartment. If you feel like any contact you’re receiving is suspicious, look up the name or company online to see if you can find any further information.

Avoid unusual forms of payment.
Never use a wire transfer service, such as Western Union or MoneyGram, or an online escrow service when sending money (such as a down payment or security deposit) for an apartment.

Never rent an apartment "sight unseen."
Before sending or paying any money (including by cashier's check), ensure that the apartment's condition, size, features, and amenities match what was described in the online listing by visiting the place yourself or by asking a friend to visit for you. does not handle lease transactions or money transfers.
Do not do business with anyone who promises that is handling any part of the actual lease transaction, including payment protection, apartment certification, escrow services or "satisfaction guarantees" of any kind.

Common Signs of Online Apartment Fraud

While none of the signs below are a definite indication of fraud, proceed with caution if you encounter any of the following when dealing with a landlord or property manager.

Landlord in distant location
The landlord or property manager claims to reside far away from the apartment, often outside the United States.

Example Email


The price is $600 per month and i ask a 2 months advance rent payment plus half month a security deposit, so $1,500. The apt is now available, totally firnished, flexible lease, is nice, clean, quiet, has all the facilities and the utilities a man needs including electric Utility, Cable TV, Parking, Laundry in the bldg, Air conditioning, high speed internet, workout facility, well behaved pets are allowed.

I am not in USA, i am in Greece teaching deaf people to "talk", i am deaf too. I left the apt three months ago, i haven't had pets, i kept the apt clean, i have no children and i am not married. This would be a perfect apartment for you.

I am ready to lease the apt for extra income. If you are interested in it please reply and we will establish the lease terms, please give me your #, i will call you via a relay company if needed.

Thank you!
Maria Bonneterre

Pressure to complete transaction
You are being rushed or pressured into paying a fee, deposit or initial rent amount before you have had an opportunity to view the apartment.

Example Email

Frank, I managed to forward your information at and I hope they will be contacting you with more details and instructions soon. The contract will become legal only from the time you move in/if you decide to move in. It is not designed to force you or anything. I apologize if I'm moving too fast but I need to rent this apartment as soon as possible. The only problem is that I have an waiting list (that was created in the email order) and for the moment you are the fourth person interested. If you find something that will not suit you and you dont want to lease anymore, please let me know soon so I can contact the next person that is interested.

Thank you.

Circumstances hard to believe
There is an unusual set of circumstances that attempts to explain why the rent for an apartment is below market value or why the apartment cannot be viewed prior to being rented.

Example Email

Dear Sarah,

Happy to hear of your interest. I live in London most of the time and decided to rent this apartment. The typical rent range for an apartment in this area of town is between $2,000.00 and $2,500.00/month. I'm asking only $800/month because I need a serious and trust worthy person who not only will pay me the rent on time but also will take care and preserve my property. I currently have someone inside (an accountant from a local bank) and she is planning on leaving this week.

I will require payment in advance for every 3 months which means $3,000.00 at every cycle. will hold the money for the first cycle until you inspect the apartment and send them your confirmation that you wish to rent. I require the payment in advance at because my time is very limited, I don't want to disturb my current tenant. I'm sick of tire-kickers, people who are just looking around and not serious about renting.

If you're ok with my terms and you wish to proceed please forward me your full name and address and I will pass them onto They will contact you with payment instructions in order to secure the deposit/first cycle. The whole process takes less than one day and I will be contacting you over the phone the very next minute I hear something positive from and schedule a meeting so you can inspect the apartment. If you will decide to pass and start looking for another place, will return you the money 100% as I will be supporting the fees but I'm sure you will like it as everybody else did.

Hope to hear from you soon,
Patrick Barnett

No direct contact with landlord
The landlord or property manager is unwilling to meet you in person or speak with you over the telephone.

Example Email

Dear Kevin,

The apartment is still available. Since my wife died I moved with my bussiness to United Kingdom, and now I`m living in Liverpool. I`m looking for a minimum one year lease contract due to the distance between USA and England. I can't come just to show you the apartment due to the distance between us. You need to fill a rental aplication form if you want me to consider you as a potential tenant.

It is very difficult to handle this process but if we come to an agreement I will be more then happy to come over and go through the lease contract. The appartment is in perfect shape, and everithing inside is brand new. As soon as you see the inside of it you would love it. That is a guarantee. Also small pets are welcome. The rent per month is $1200 and the deposit $1200 aswell.

We are going to sign the lease as soon as you are satisfied with the apartment. Please contact me for some more photos and the Rental Aplication Form.

Regards, Trevor

Where to Report Online Fraud

If you witness or become a victim of online fraud, report the incident to local law enforcement authorities immediately. The following online resources should also be contacted:

Internet Crime Complaint Center

Federal Trade Commission

Identity Theft
If you believe that your personal financial information has been revealed to a person who might use it inappropriately, visit the FTC's identity theft website at for important information about protecting yourself.

Have questions or concerns about a property?

Please email us at or call at 866.432.7368 (M-F, 9am-5pm PT).

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