The most common rental scam currently is the fake listing rental scam. In this scam, the scammer will post a listing on a common platform, such as Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, with the intention of collecting application fees, not renting the home. In fact, there is no actual rental, to begin with. The scammer is simply trying to collect application fees, then they’ll delete the listing.

How to spot a rental scam

The cost of the rental is too good to be true.

Is the cost of the rental way below the market rate for the area? Is the low cost justified? If not, this could be an indication of a scam. Scammers are hoping you’ll be blinded by the low monthly cost and not notice any of the red flags.

The property has been listed for months.

If the cost is so low, why is it still listed? Are there no applicants for this low-cost rental in this high-cost market? Similarly, some rental websites allow you to see how many people have applied for this property. If the property has been listed for a long time, plus it has a bunch of applications, why hasn’t it been rented?

Keywords like “No credit check.”

Not doing a credit check is a very risky move for a landlord. Scammers love using the phrase “no credit check” and other phrases that seemingly remove the barrier of entry. Scammers are hoping you’ll see this barrier removed, plus the low price, and completely bypass all of the red flags they’ve put up.

The landlord doesn’t want to meet in person.

If they don’t want to meet in person, this is a big red flag. Landlords will want to at least meet the people moving into their property. Scammers will do everything they can to avoid meeting you in person such as last-minute cancelations and outright refusal.

The landlord doesn’t have time to show you the property.

This is a very common excuse for scammers. The landlord may say to just go by the property and check it out yourself, or they may simply direct you to pictures online. If they don’t have the time to show you the property, this should be a major red flag because showing you the property is their literal job.

The landlord needs a deposit before you can see the property.

If a landlord states you need to provide a deposit before even seeing the property, consider this a red flag. While it’s not uncommon to require deposits for applications, these deposits are often very small and sometimes refundable. It’s uncommon to require a deposit before simply seeing the property. The scammer is likely looking for some extra cash, especially if the deposit is a large amount. Be wary of wire transfer fraud.

How to avoid rental scams

Be wary of listings that are too good to be true.

It’s an old saying that still applies: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Sometimes things that are too good are actually true, but it’s important to identify any red flags before moving forward.

Do not pay for anything upfront.

If you’re simply interested in viewing a property, you shouldn’t have to send any money. Until you have something in writing, whether it be an application fee or a lease, do not provide any funds.

Do a drive-by on the property you want to rent.

Make sure that the property exists and that it’s up to your standards of living. Even if the property does exist, it doesn’t mean it’s listed by the proper party. Look around the property for signs of someone else living there, or for For Sale signs. Often scammers will find empty homes for sale and use those images as fake rental listings.

Meet the landlord in person.

Make sure that the landlord is legitimate and use your best judgment. If you’re able to meet the landlord in person at the property, it’s less likely that it’s a scam, but it’s important to trust your gut. Do background checks on your potential landlord before signing any official documents.

While there are plenty of legitimate rental sites out there, it’s important to use caution when looking for a place to live. Ultimately, your best bet is to do your research and be wary of cash deals or any other deal that seems too good to be true. This way, you can ensure that you have some degree of protection from scams and landlords who aren’t interested in keeping their properties up.

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