Scam listings are no joke. That’s why we’re committed to protecting renters by being a go-to resource to provide critical information on relevant topics, such as listings that are intended to manipulate and defraud.
Phantom rentals to rip-off ads
To prep you for your hunt for a new apartment, we’ve got hot tips so you can be proactive and avoid common fraud scams, dubious online ads and fake rental listings posted by individuals with alleged criminal intent.
Here’s what to look for to weed out any trouble from the outset.
1. Trust your instincts
Phantom ads are attention grabbers. Did you do a double take on the rent when you first saw it? That’s because it’s a hoax. If the rent seems unrealistic for the neighborhood where the apartment is located – your gut instinct is spot on.
2. Never send money
If you communicate with an individual identified as an agent, it’s a must that you see the apartment in person and also meet the contact face-to-face. Being asked for a security deposit or rent exchange on a fraudulently advertised property prior to ever seeing the property – well, that’s a sure-bet con for cash scheme. If asked for money or a wire transfer via Western Union – the plot to deceive thickens since either form of payment will be impossible to track.
3. No photos and address? No way!
Two major clues to I.D. a fraudulent listing – no apartment photos and no address. When an address is included, do your due diligence and check Google Maps or Google Street View to verify its validity and existence.
4. Be smarter than the criminals
It’s vital to check out whatever reference information is included in the listing to verify if it’s real or fake. If you can’t find anything to back up the listing through a search engine quick glimpse – then the agent isn’t legit and the listing is a big fat lie.
5. Hijacked trickery
Apartment seekers might come across a property that’s the real-deal, or, at least it looks that way. But don’t be fooled by a “hijacked ad” that falsely uses a real property (photos and all) with fake contact information. This type of ad is typically used for get rich quick schemes on properties in foreclosure.
6. Signs of online fraud
Sad but true, online fraud in the rental market is commonplace. Whether it’s a landlord who includes a laundry list of amenities that don’t exist just to get a higher rent out of an unsuspecting apartment hunter, or an individual who attempts to collect a security deposit on an apartment already leased – it’s always a good idea to keep your guard up and be diligent in your own search efforts. Other signs of online fraud include:
- Email communications that are full of misspellings, poor grammar and incomplete sentences are typical of a fraudulent undertaking.
- The landlord is unavailable to meet and is only able to communicate via email. A hard and fast rule – don’t waste your time. Could be someone out of the country for all you know.
- The landlord or rental-listing agent is laying the pressure on. The transaction needs to be signed off on urgently even though you haven’t yet seen the apartment.
- The excuses keep piling up for why the apartment is below market value, why you won’t need to fill out a credit application, and even why the apartment can’t be seen.
If you think you’re a victim
Despite your best efforts, if you become a victim of fraud, you can take action. File a report with your local police department and advise the consumer protection agency of the incident. Consider reporting online fraud and concerns about identity theft to: