Rental Scams

Rental Scams


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Rental Scams

According to Chron, “the Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas is seeing an uptick in reports of rental scams. 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.”

“Rental scams often follow a similar pattern. 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.”

“One common scenario is that the scammer pretends to have been transferred suddenly for work.”

“The scammer will then create a false sense of urgency, telling you that others are interested so you must act immediately. They will ask for a security deposit and/or first month’s rent to reserve the property.”

Are Rental Scams a Big Problem?

Apartment List, a website dedicated to matching renters with the right property, estimates that 5.2 million U.S. renters have lost money due to rental scams.

The company ran a national survey of 1,000 renters to take a look at the impact of rental scams. Apartment List found that just a tick over 43 percent of those renters encountered a fraudulent listing, with over 6 percent of them losing money.

The survey also found that across the board young renters, those between the ages of 19 to 29, were most likely to have encountered a suspicious listing, contact a fraudulent listing, lose money from scam and sign a bogus lease.

What Are the Most Common Scams?

According to Apartment List, some of the most common rental scams are:

  • Bait-and-Switch: Renter is shown one unit but signs for another.
  • Already Leased: Renter pays collection fees or security deposits on a unit already leased.
  • Hijacked Ads: Fake ads for real properties, usually homes for sale, where the contact info has been altered.
  • Phantom Rentals: Made up listings on places that aren’t real or actually up for rent.
  • I’ll Mail You the Keys: When the alleged property owner states they are out of town or the country, and they will need to mail you the keys.

So How Do You Protect Yourself?

  • Payment Methods: Always pay with a credit card for the consumer protections they provide. Don’t pay by cash, check or wire transfer, which are all payment methods scammers lean on.
  • Property and Owner Verification: Trip Savvy recommends renters use Google Maps or similar services to make sure the property actually exists. Renters should also look up the owner or property manager and check if they’re apart of any renter associations.
  • The Reader’s Digest says It’s not uncommon for renters to do a drive-by to see if the house looks as good as it does in the photos. But what if the property has a sign out front from a realtor or property management that doesn’t match up with the “landlord” you’ve been talking to?
  • You see spelling or grammer errors in the ad. That’s a clue that this is a scam.
  • if there’s a number one rule to follow, it’s the most cliche: “Is this deal too good to be true?”

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Photo by Jose Alonso on Unsplash

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