When you are looking to rent a new place, you may think doing so is as simple as finding one you like and signing a rental agreement. However, it is often a multi-step process.
It is also a process that can include weeding out scam, which are far too common these days. Keep reading to learn tips for recognizing scams and protecting yourself from them.
What is a Rental Scam?
A rental scam is a scam in which a potential property owner provides fraudulent information.
His or her goal is usually to get you to pay a security deposit on a rental property, and then keep the money. In some cases, a scammer may also try to con money out of you for other purposes related to the supposed rental process.
The property may not even exist. If it does exist, it may not currently be available to rent or the supposed property owner you are dealing with may not actually be the owner.
How Can You Recognize a Rental Scam?
There are a variety of rental scams that are common throughout the United States. Not all of them follow the same formula.
However, most rental scams have common traits. Here are some possible red flags:
- You are not allowed to virtually or physically tour the unit for rent.
- The scammer attempts to charge exorbitant fees for processes like background checks.
- An online listing uses the same images or information as another online listing.
- The scammer does not require a written lease and relies solely on verbal agreements.
- An online listing lists amenities that are not visible in the images or mentioned in the lease.
How Can You Avoid Rental Scams?
One way to make sure a rental is legitimate is to physically visit the address. Also, you should always inspect every aspect of a rental listing carefully for inconsistencies.
When speaking with property owners, ask in-depth questions and avoid providing personal information, such as your Social Security number.
More than anything else, do not pay money sight unseen. Make sure to put all important agreements in writing.
What Should You Do if You Become a Victim of a Rental Scam?
No matter how hard you try, it is possible to still fall victim to rental fraud. If you do, the first thing to do is to contact law enforcement.
Also, contact the newspaper or website where the original property ad is listed. That way, the publisher can pull the ad before others fall victim to the same scammer.