Finding a place for yourself in a completely new country alone can be difficult. Straight from finding leads to viewing the properties, from getting a reliable rent guarantor to getting the rental agreement ready, there’s always a lot to take care of. In such rushing and overwhelming situations, people may sometimes miss out on the red flags that come their way during the hunt.
With so many people searching for properties online today, there is a real chance that property fraudsters may take advantage of you and cause you to lose money quickly by attempting to get you to pay a security deposit or move-in fee without ever having seen the apartment or rental unit. To fool and deceive you into parting with a lot of money, scammers and con artists prey on naive renters by working under the cover of accountability, legal paperwork, and paper trails. Check out this article to know about how to spot a rental scam.
What is a rental scam?
Before learning how to spot a rental scam, you should know what a rental scam means. A rental scam is basically a scam involving fraudsters and scammers trying to fraud tenants of their money. The scammers try to scam the tenants by engaging in illegal property listings or taking the deposit or move-in fee without letting the tenants and rent guarantors see the apartment or without the intention of ever letting you rent the apartment. These scammers either hide behind the screen or fake identities.
Types of rental scams
Non-existing rentals top the list of different kinds of rental property scams and are one of the common ways of housing scams. In this housing scam, the scammer lists a non-existent or phantom property. In this case, either the property does not exist or is not for sale. The scammers list such properties for sale and lure you into buying them without intending to sell them. They aim to take in your deposit or early rent and run away.
In this type of rental fraud, the scammer hijacks the already posted rental advertisements and poses as the landlord. He changes and alters the original contact details to his own. They post the same ad again and alter the details so genuine clients contact them. This is how they lay the trap and steal money from people.
Suspicious Money Requests
If you are asked to deposit money or some other fee without even visiting the property or seeing one, it can be one of the tricks of scammers. In this case, you might be asked to give an illegal deposit or security money for an apartment you have never seen or to a landlord (*ahem* scammer) you have never met. This type of apartment rental scam is common. Always remember that only the last month's rent and a refundable key deposit may be lawfully requested from tenants as part of the lease signing process. Application fees, holding fees, maintenance fees, security deposits, pet deposits, cleaning fees, etc., are all prohibited by law.
In this rental scam, ads might be posted for an already rented apartment. Here, the scammer posts an advertisement for a pre-leased apartment, collects the deposit or application fees and makes you the victim of rental fraud. Make sure you check the apartment before signing the lease.
This is one of the apartment rental scams where the landlord attempts to persuade you to sign a lease or pay a deposit for a home other than the one listed. This is how the landlord scams you. Ensure you are signing the lease of the same apartment shown to you so that you do not fall for this kind of rental property scam. Here, you are baited by being shown an amazing apartment; your offer is completely different.
Sometimes, the main motive of these kinds of rental property scammers in this type of rental fraud is not to take illegal deposits or extra application fees. Still, they are after your confidential and sensitive information, such as your social security number or credit card information. Always be cautious with your data and only provide the information the law requires. Providing only the information the law requires will save you from rental scams.
In this kind of rental scam, the amenities listed in the posted apartment ads do not exist. Or the landlord scams you and takes the maintenance fees or extra money for the amenities you are not provided with. Always double-check if the amenities and facilities are available so you don’t fall for a rental scam. You can cross-check and confirm with a trusted rental agent about the inclusions.
Too-good-to-be-true apartment prices
Sometimes, some things are too-good-to-be-true. The landlord scams you by offering a price you cannot decline or resist. These rental scams can target students; as usual, their first preference is affordable living places. Do not fall into the traps of housing fraud and rental property scams.
How to avoid rental scams?
Prevention is definitely better than cure. Let's see how to avoid rental scams and becoming a victim of housing scams.
Avoid non-traceable payment methods
Never deal in cash or non-traceable payment methods. You might be asked to pay via cash, but these payment methods are a big no. Due to non-traceable payment methods, rental frauds and rental property scams are hard to trace.
Never book an apartment without a visit
Always check the apartment you are about to rent to avoid rental scams. Check if all the promised amenities are provided with the apartment and if it is not just a part of rental fraud.
Never provide confidential information
The landlord scams by luring you with enticing offers and stealing your personal information, such as your Social Security Number (SSN). Make sure you are extra careful with this rental scam.
Meet the landlord before signing
Ensure your landlord is genuine and sweet and not a disciple of Hitler. Sweet landlords are a boon and make your life easier. Also, if possible, try connecting with the current tenants to confirm the INs and OUTs of the property.
Demand a written lease or agreement
make sure you are handed a written lease and are handed a hard copy. With proof in your hand, you won’t fall into the traps of rental scams.
Few simple tips that will help you in avoiding rental scams
- Always conduct basic research about the landlord and the place you are about to rent.
- If the landlord does not engage in tenant screening, they might conduct rental fraud.
- Ensure you read the lease thoroughly, front and back, even if it is longer than Rachel’s letter and do not sign an incomplete contract to avoid rental fraud.
What should you do if you've already been scammed?
We hope you are reading this section as a precaution, but if you have become or ever become (we hope not) a fraud or rental scam victim, you can decide to take action on the rental scam by following the steps below.
Contact the police
The first thing to do is contact the police or local authorities. It can be hard to do, given you’ve just been scammed, but the sooner you inform, the better
Contact the website
The first thing to do is contact the police or local authorities. It can be hard to do, given you’ve just been scammed, but the sooner you inform, the better.
You can also file an IC3 complaint if you have been scammed using an online portal. Internet Cyber-Crime Complaint (IC3) deals with cyber crimes, and they will help you deal with rental fraud.
Finding decent accommodation is harder without falling into the traps of rental property scammers might be harder than finding the motivation to study. You can rent your apartment with your student loan, and also, before finalising accommodation, which is mainly for the long run but look into these things before you choose your student housing.