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Keys to avoiding home rental scams

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Need more space than an apartment, condo or townhouse can offer, but not ready to buy? A single-family home rental may fit the bill. But not all home rental listings are legit, so here are some tip-offs and tools to help you avoid a rental scam.

According to National Rental Home Council (NRHC) members, who are owners of rental homes, scammers use a variety of tactics to get people’s money. Some hijack a real rental listing by changing the email address or other contact information and then placing the altered ad on another site. Others gain access to keys in lock boxes, make copies, and pose as legitimate rental agents. Still others may list a property that’s already leased and then try to collect application fees, security deposits, and even the first month’s rent.

Here are some tips to help you avoid rental scams:

  • Do an online search of the rental company. Enter its name plus words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If you find bad reviews, you may want to look elsewhere.
  • Got a good vibe? Rental home listings may appear in several places, including rental company websites and online listing services like like Zillow, Trulia or Craigslist. If you see a rental company’s listing on one of those online listing services, do a search of the home’s address to make sure it appears on the rental company’s website. If it doesn’t, it may be a scam.
  • Compare prices. Is the rent a lot less than comparable rentals? That could be a red flag.
  • Take a tour. Ask for identification. Rental agents should have photo ID badges issued by the company that owns or manages the property.
  • Nothing sketchy yet? Apply through the rental company, licensed real estate professional or listings website.
  • Before you sign a lease, look for signs at the rental with the name of the property owner or manager. Call that company before making a deal with anyone.
  • Never pay with cash, wire transfers or gift cards. If anyone tells you to pay this way, it’s a sure sign of a scam. Wiring money is like sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back. As for gift cards, they’re for gifts, NOT for payments.

If you spot a rental scam, report it to local law enforcement and the FTC.

For more tips, see Rental Listing Scams. Want to avoid the latest rip-offs? Sign up for free consumer alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/subscribe.

Tagged with: home, imposter, rent, scam
Blog Topics: 
Homes & Mortgages

Comments

Check the owner information at the County Assessor office. That will tell you who the owner is & contact address.
It won't verify a management company if it's under contract, but at least you'll know if a individual offering the property is legit.

Another red flag is showing "outside only"photos of the property or photos that look like they're taken from windows. Also,when you ask to visit a property and they tell you they'll send you the keys once you send the money.

Recently I was looking to rent a furnished apartment in Denver, CO. I at first used Craigs List, beware!!! Most of these are scams and if you do your research you can find the real listing (if it exists) on the true sight. The scammers are pushy, out of the state and cannot meet with you. Some scammers on there even take up the identity of a REAL Real Estate agent. Most scammers will have 2 to 3 people working on the scam and provide all kinds of email addresses. Background searches do provide histories. Most people that actually have a place to rent will call you and want to know who they are renting too.

Great post!

I'm looking for a rental home and a couple times so far I thought I had found something on Craigslist. So I sent a message through Craigslist's reply feature requesting more info, pics, etc and someone would get back to me and ask me if I could text or call them but would not give me any of the information that I had asked....
ARE THOSE SCAMS?? I didn't responded any of those people because I thought that they were scammers... Didn't make any sense to me that they didn't answer any question that I had asked but wanted my information. Was I right to not respond to those emails? Has anybody else had this happen to them?

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