While most renters tell us about the ease and convenience of finding a new apartment using Rent.com, 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 and walk away from any suspicious rental 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.
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.
Rent.com does not handle lease transactions or money transfers. Do not do business with anyone who promises that Rent.com 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 is a definite indication of fraud, proceed with caution if you encounter any of the following when dealing with a landlord or property manager.
The landlord or property manager claims to reside far away from the apartment, often outside the United States.
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.
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.
The landlord or property manager is unwilling to meet you in person or speak with you over the telephone.
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
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 www.consumer.gov/idtheft for important information about protecting yourself.