Common Rental Scams

Common Rental Scams


According to CNBC, “Renting an apartment or a single-family home may seem easier than buying one, especially as so much of the process is online.” Easier, however, isn’t always safer. More than 43 percent of renters have found listings that seem fraudulent, and more than 5 million have fallen for common rental scams, often losing thousands of dollars.

Common Rental Scams

The Omaha Worl-Herald says, “No one was more surprised than Suzy Pfaff to see the for-rent ad circulating for a freshly painted, three-bedroom house near Standing Bear Lake.”

“That’s because the house was hers — and she certainly was not trying to rent it out.”

“Pfaff soon would learn that an impostor had hijacked her home photos and other information, apparently from a different online real estate site where she had listed her home for sale. The thief, trying to pass off her house as his own, managed to swindle money from at least one home hunter, despite warning signs Pfaff planted in her yard. One said: “Not for Rent. Khoa Truong is a Scam. Don’t send $.”

A Suspicious Carrie Ennis

“Even a suspicious Carrie Ennis said the affordable rent and attractive interior photos she saw on social media tempted her into taking a drive to look at the home’s exterior. The impostor promised to mail keys in exchange for a rent installment ($900) and a deposit ($800).”

“Too many red flags for Ennis, who ended up contacting Pfaff and offering to help expose the fraud. But she said she could relate to frustrated home seekers who might at least nibble.”

What Are the Most Common Rental Scams?

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

  • 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.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The scammer shows one unit but has you sign 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, with the contact info altered.
  • Phantom Rentals: Made up listings on places that aren’t really for rent.

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 exists. Renters should also look up the owner or property manager and check if they’re a part 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. Pay particular attention that the property has a sign out front from a realtor or property management that matches up with the “landlord” you’ve been talking to.
  • You see spelling or grammar 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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