Moving out of your home and into another can be stressful. There are so many aspects that can go wrong. But one of the problems you definitely don’t want to be faced with is paying for a place that doesn’t actually exist.
Unfortunately, this is an ever-growing scam that can leave people out of money and with no place to stay. Worst of all, you’ll only realize that something is wrong when it is too late. Tap or click here to make money renting out your whole house, kitchen or backyard.
Read on to see how this housing scam works and ways to spot the signs.
Here’s the backstory
It’s easy to get swept up with fanciful dreams about living near a lake with a giant front yard and kids running around. So you might think you are one step closer to realizing those dreams when the perfect house pops up on a rental website.
It could be what you are looking for, but scammers also look for easy targets. According to the Better Business Bureau, scammers often use photos of real properties and then con prospective renters out of the security deposit.
The scam works by creating a sense of urgency. When you call about the property, the fake landlord is never available to show it to you.
Instead, they give an excuse of being on vacation or out of town for work. Then, a few days later, they’ll call back saying that other people are also interested in the house and you’ll have to decide quickly.
To “reserve” the property, the landlord asks for a security deposit and sometimes the first month’s rent. As you might guess, when the landlord receives the payment, they cut off all communication and the house wasn’t for rent at all.
What you can do about it
The BBB warns that there are several variations of the scam. In one such case, the “landlord” asked interested parties to fill out an application form. While the form asked the usual questions, it also required renters to give their Social Security numbers. That should immediately be a red flag.
In a different version, scam landlords asked potential renters to pay $50 to get the online application link and then charged another $100 per adult to reserve the property.
Tips to avoid rental scams:
- Watch out for deals that are too good to be true. Scammers lure you in by promising low rents, extra amenities, and a great location. If the price seems much better than elsewhere, it may be a scam.
- Search online for similar properties. Do a quick search for the listing, scammer’s email address, or phone number. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that’s a huge red flag.
- See the property in person. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised.
- Don’t pay a stranger with cash transfer apps. Many scammers now ask for payments through peer-to-peer apps instead of wired funds or prepaid debit/gift cards. Only use these apps with people you know. It’s ok to pay a landlord you trust with Venmo, Zelle, or another P2P app, but don’t use this payment method to secure an apartment or pay a deposit.