A-partment Hunting We Will Go
Apartment hunting for the perfect place to live? As you scan rental ads in newspapers, or on websites or listservs, remember that some ads may not be legit.
Scammers regularly advertise rentals that don’t exist or aren’t available. They also clone actual rental listings and then change the contact and email information, placing the altered ads in numerous newspapers or websites to trick as many people as they can out of money. Often, the scam comes to light too late.
You can avoid falling for rental listing scams by remembering these tips:
- Never wire money or send a check to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you’ve never seen. If you can’t meet the landlord in person because she’s living or traveling out of the country – and if you can’t see the actual apartment before you pay application fees, a security deposit, or sign a lease – keep looking. Wiring money is the same as sending cash – once you send it, you can’t get it back.
- Don’t be rushed into a decision. If you receive an email pressuring you to make an on-the-spot decision for a rental, ignore it and move on. It could be a red flag.
- The lower the price for a premium listing, the more likely it’s a scam. Below-market rent for a spectacular apartment in a great location with a million-dollar view? Rip-off artists love to attract people’s interest by making good enough to be true promises.
- If you place an ad looking for a tenant to rent your property, be aware of scams involving fake checks. A bogus renter could reply to your ad saying they have a cashier’s check ready for you to deposit in your bank account for more than the rental price. They ask you to wire them the difference once you’ve deposited the check. Unfortunately, once the bank figures out the check you deposited is a fake, you are responsible for paying back all the money, including the cash you wired to the scammer.
If you’ve wired money and didn’t get the product or service you were promised, call the money transfer company right away to report the fraud and file a complaint. You also can file a complaint with the FTC.