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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

Blog Topics: 
Homes & Mortgages
Scam Tags:  Rental & Housing Scams


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?

I recently found a property for rent. I immediately went to the Auditor's web page. The e-mail address, and his name were nowhere on the Auditor's webpage as the owner. I told him this, he went on to tell me that he assured me that the photos I saw on the website were the same photos, and that I had nothing to worry about. He even encouraged me to go view the property from the outside because there was no one to show me the property, and that he was away on the "base". I had him send me the rental application. He sent it, and the app itself was shady looking. I then contacted a leasing company, and they were just as shady. Would not call me back. They took my call, but would not return my call for me to meet with an agent to schedule a viewing. I was pretty bummed. I loved the house, it was in my budget, and perfect for my family. But hey...I'd rather be safe than sorry.

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Here is a new one, be very careful for emails when the owner will claim it was for sale but changed their mind so disregard the realtor sign or that they are away on a missionary to help covid affected areas. What I did was copy and paste the address in google and 9 out of 10 times the house on zillow for sale. I contacted the realtor agent and asked about it being for rent and they confirmed it was not. The amount the original post was asking for was lower than zillows "rent estimate" and the rent website only had a one or 2 pics. Hope this helps.

i’ve already rented this house and put a deposit down and i feel like it’s weird how it’s still up on a website

this house is listed on face book marketplace and they are trying to rent it with application fees and deposites. The man says his name is Marcus and claims to be the owner. He wants the funds to be sent by zelle. He is a scammer.

Hey lily89, did you rent this house through First key? And do you have a contract with them and a move in date? I know a person that I think actually got scammed on this house that is living there now, but the company says that they haven't rented it to anyone.

BEWARE of Craigslist and some websites. LOOK AT THE APPLICATION, if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. I went to look at a rental home and told the "person" who was texting me that a different realtor's information was in the yard, they told me that it was their OLD realtor and they took it over to do it themselves. I checked the "Been Verified" website for their name and information (including email adds) and found out they had threat levels for being a scammer previously. Its worth the $20 for a month to do your research on these people. Best of luck to everyone!

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