A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: Don’t fall victim to scammers when renting; research listing before paying deposit

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

Finding a new place to live is stressful, and scammers know that people in the midst of moving don’t always have time to do the necessary research. Don’t be one of them.

Consider this scenario: You respond to an online rental listing that touts a beautiful home, low rent, and great amenities. It looks legitimate; con artists often use real photos and descriptions stolen from other websites. The “landlord” replies to your message claiming to be out of town and unable to show the property. Often the scammer will claim to have been transferred out of the country by his/her employer or is suddenly too busy to meet with you to show the property.

The scammer will then create a false sense of urgency, telling you that others are interested in the property, so you must act immediately. You’ll be asked for a security deposit and/or first month’s rent to reserve the property. A promise may also be made that you can see the property through a rental agent—but only after you pay the deposit.

In some versions, the “landlord” will require prospective tenants to complete an application form, which asks for personal details like a social security number.  No matter the details, once you send the money the result is the same: both the money and your personal information disappear. Keep in mind, this same type of scheme can be used when college students are looking for a place to stay for the upcoming school year.

Avoid falling victim to this scam with these tips:

• Watch out for deals that are too good to be true. The first sign is the promise of low rents, extra amenities, and a great location. If the price seems much better than offered elsewhere, it may be a scam.

• Search online for similar properties. Do a quick search for the listing, the posted email address or phone number. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that’s a huge red flag.

• If it’s nearby, see the property in person. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised.

• If you’ve been the victim of a rental scam, use your experience to help others avoid falling prey by reporting it to scamtracker.org.

Sandra Guile is the Public Relations Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment