Finding a long-term rental in an inflationary market is really a challenge, and scammers know that and are taking advantage of this vulnerability.
Whether you are looking for an apartment or a house, scammers are trying to fool you in a bunch of deceptive ways. The good news is that these are the best ways to identify and fend off these criminal swindlers.
Follow this list to make sure a prospective rental property is legit.
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1. Make sure the monthly rent isn’t too good to be true
If you’re looking in a specific area for a place to rent, and you notice that there is one listing that is significantly lower than the other listings in that area, it could be a scam. The scammer might advertise that they are giving potential renters a rare opportunity that is going to disappear fast, hoping to draw in first-time renters, out-of-state renters or renters who are in a rush to find a place.
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To make sure that it is not a scam, double-check other rentals in the area you’re looking at with similar amenities. You can also use a rental calculator like Rent Zestimate to see what the price of a certain rental is expected to be, based on what it is offering.
Before committing to anything, ask the property manager or landlord why the price is so low, and make sure you keep a copy of all your communication with them. You can also use review websites like Yelp or Google Reviews to check the landlord’s reputation.
2. Check that the listing is legitimate
One big clue to a rental listing being a scam is if you come across the same listing on a different rental site, and the name of the person who listed it is different from what you originally saw. A scammer can easily get the information for a legitimate listing and change the contact information to make it look like they listed it themselves.
Always check to see if a rental you are interested in appears on various sites online, and if the contact information is different for each one, then it’s probably a scam. Also, be sure to use reputable rental listing websites like Zillow, Trulia or Apartments.com. These websites usually have a verification process to ensure that the property and landlord are legitimate.
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3. Take note of how the listing asks for payment
If a landlord or property manager requests that you pay for the rental in cash, wire transfer or money order, that is a big scamming red flag. Once you send money in those ways, you’ll have difficulty tracing any payment if the property turns out to be a scam.
Many legit rental listings will ask you to make a payment via electronic deposit from your bank account or with a credit card or check. Some other larger properties may even have a website with a portal where you can pay online. These are all traceable options where there is little to no room for you to be scammed.
4. Do not give personal information
You should never give away your personal information before viewing a property. It is commonplace for potential renters to be allowed to view a property without providing any personal information like a social security number, date of birth or credit card number, and you should not be asked to make any type of payment before viewing the rental either.
If you are not able to see the property in person, request an online tour, or send an agent or a friend on your behalf.
5. Make sure it’s not a phantom property
Some scammers will go as far as giving virtual tours to potential renters in places where properties are not up for rent at all. This is so that the potential renter believes that the property is real and then becomes willing to hand over a security deposit.
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Always schedule either an in-person or virtual meeting with the landlord or property manager early on in the process. You can also always ask someone you trust to go view the rental property for you to make sure it is legit. You can also use online tools like Google Street View, Zillow or Trulia to verify that the property is real and matches the photos and descriptions provided.
And if you’re still unsure, you can contact the local assessor’s office or the county clerk, and they will provide property records on the place. Be sure to verify all names, websites and phone numbers in the listing, and read all reviews on the property manager or landlord if they have a website or any social media.
Most of all, trust your instincts. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Go with your gut, and avoid properties that seem suspicious, or landlords who seem overly pushy.
Were these tips helpful to you? Let us know if you have any rental scam red flags we may have missed.
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