Finding the right apartment or home to rent takes time and hard work. When you find a good deal, you may jump at the chance to secure your dream living space. Unfortunately, scammers are counting on that too.
Some scammers hijack an actual rental ad and photos, changing contact information and placing the ad on another listing site. Other scammers may simply make up a listing for a location that isn’t for rent or doesn’t exist. When a renter responds to the ad, scammers often pressure for a quick decision. Their goal is to get money from the unsuspecting renter before the scam is figured out.
When you are in the market for a rental, watch for signs that you could be dealing with scammers: They ask you to wire money, they are out of the country, they rush you into a decision, or they want a security deposit or rent before you meet or see the rental property.
The BBB offers the following tips to help you be a savvy renter:
• If the amenities and corresponding rent sound too good to be true, it is likely a scam.
• If you are asked to pay application fees, a security deposit, or sign a lease before you have seen the apartment, keep looking.
• Don’t send a wire transfer to someone you haven’t met for an apartment you haven’t seen. Instead pay by credit card, so you can dispute charges if problems arise.
• Don’t provide personal information for a credit check before meeting the landlord or rental agent in person and before seeing the rental listing. Landlords and rental agencies will most likely want to run a credit check. However, sending your personal information through email without confirming the legitimacy of the rental listing opens you up to identity theft.
To check on a rental company or agency, visit the BBB at www.bbb.org or call (509) 455-4200. If you have been the target of a rental scam, report it to your local law enforcement agency and contact the website where the ad was posted. You can also file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor