How can you tell a dream rental from a nightmare scam? Here are few tipoffs to a scam:
The price is too good to be true
You know the old saying, “If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.” This is also true for rental listings. If you see an affordable apartment in your dream location and the rent is way below what others are charging, there may be a problem. Scammers often prey on first-time apartment renters, long-distance movers and those who aren’t internet savvy. Of course, there is a chance the listing is real and you’re getting a great deal, but be careful. Browse local listings to get a sense of typical rents prices for the area, and keep copies of all your communication with the landlord or property manager.
The landlord asks for personal info upfront
If your potential landlord is asking for personal information such as your Social Security number or the routing number for your bank account, steer clear. There is no need for that information in the search process.
The rental property is listed for sale elsewhere
When you see a great rental listing, consider searching the address to see if the property is listed for sale on another site. If it is, you might want to ask the owner why it’s for sale as well as for rent. Maybe the owner couldn’t sell the house quickly enough and decided to rent instead. But you don’t want to show up on moving day and find out that someone has purchased the house. Or that the “landlord” never owned the house to begin with.
The rental description is poorly written
Misspellings or poor grammar in listings could be red flags. Though the landlord may just be careless, good property managers and landlords typically make sure that their listings are descriptive and error free.
The landlord is out of state or out of the country
While there are landlords who buy houses out of state and use them for income, it’s safer to make sure you have a local contact like a property management company to ensure that you aren’t being swindled.
The landlord asks you to wire funds
Run — don’t walk — away from this listing. You should never be required to secure an apartment or a house by transferring money to a landlord, especially when you haven’t seen the place or signed a contract.
If you spot a possible rental scam you should contact the website that published the listing. Zillow’s Help Center explains how to report a suspicious listing and offers more tips about what to watch out for. If you think you have been scammed, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Be sure to keep copies of all communications between you and the possible scammer.