4 Types of Apartment Rental Scams

Author: PeopleFinders on June 11th, 2019
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Renting an apartment is an incredibly important endeavor. Not only do you need a roof over your head, but you also need something that you can afford, that’s close to important locations, and that looks how you envision your ideal residence.

However, in your search for the perfect apartment, you may be more likely to fall for rental scams. Scammers are always looking for new ways to take advantage of people looking for the perfect place. Avoid these four rental scams by educating yourself on what to look out for.

1. Switching Out Apartments

Real landlords can sometimes scam you by renting you an apartment that you never saw. A landlord may give you a tour of a real apartment. But it’s an apartment that isn’t the one you’ll actually end up renting.

They’re counting on the fact that you won’t read the lease thoroughly, or that you won’t insist on seeing your specific apartment before signing the lease. They may also show amenities that won’t be on the final lease, like offering a furnished apartment when the lease specifies an unfurnished apartment.

How to avoid this scam? Make sure you read the lease thoroughly, and match up the apartment number on the lease with the one you’ve toured.

2. Apartments That Don’t Exist

This is a bold scam, but one that can be surprisingly effective. With this, scammers simply make up fake apartments.

They may steal images of real apartments and copy information from other listings to make their fake property sound enticing. Usually, they’ll also offer incredibly low prices to lure people into applying. Generally, they’ll have you do the application online, often providing your personal information and a fee, and then simply run off.

How to avoid this scam? Make sure you always ask to see the apartment before giving out any personal information or money.

3. Renting Homes Owned by Others

In one of the riskiest rental schemes, an individual may find a location that’s either up for sale or just isn’t currently inhabited, such as a vacation rental or a home undergoing foreclosure. Then, they pretend that it’s his or hers.

The scammer may be able to get the keys or just break-in, and then give you a tour that seems official. When you put down the deposit, you learn that the apartment isn’t available, and the scammer has just disappeared with your money. This can even fool well-known real estate sites such as Trulia and Zillow because these locations do exist; they’re just not really for rent.

How to avoid this scam? Dig deeper to find out who owns the rental property, and you can determine if it’s a legitimate rental.

4. Paying Deposits Sight Unseen

Plenty of scammers use this trick, and rentals are only one facet of this wide-reaching scam.

The most common explanation scammers give for this requirement is that the apartment is in extremely high demand. They need the deposit immediately–before you’ve even filled out an application–to reserve your spot. They’ll often ask for the deposit by cashier’s check or money order, so you can’t reverse the payment, and will never again contact you after it’s been sent.

How to avoid this scam? Don’t send a deposit before you’ve seen the apartment, especially not by money transfer.

How to Thwart Scammers

Scammers can often manipulate data when posting on sites such as Craigslist and Zillow. But that doesn’t change anything about the building’s history or ownership. With a public records site like PeopleFinders, you may just have all the information you need to catch them in the act.

PeopleFinders offers several options to help you pinpoint a rental scam. With an address lookup, you may be able to get information on a specific apartment complex or home, which would make it easier to tell if the “landlord” actually owns the place that he or she is renting out.

You can also target your contact specifically, and perform a background check. Doing so may reveal if the person has a record of scams, or is lying about his or her identity.

Can I Get a Good Apartment Deal Online?

It’s completely possible to find your perfect apartment online. Even sites with a sometimes bad reputation, such as Craigslist, can still be a good way to find the apartment of your dreams. As long as you take steps to protect yourself before you make any down payments or sign any leases, you can stay safe from potential scams.

For more tips and advice on these and other scams, be sure to check out the PeopleFinders blog.

Image attribution: Comugnero Silvana – stock.adobe.com

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Categorized in: Scams