Rental scams are very prevalent and it’s easy to fall victim to one. People can copy listings and pictures and post them on a multitude of websites and claim to be the owner or manager. Then they can simply collect money from you and never contact you again. Learn what to look for so that you can be sure you won’t fall victim to a housing scam.
Don’t Deal in Cash
Never deal only in cash. If an “owner” or “property manager” insists that you pay cash for the security deposit, application fee or other payment, you will need to consider everything carefully. Cash is untraceable, so they can simply keep your money and give you nothing in return. You should avoid wire transfers for the same reason. Reputable management companies request money orders and provide receipt of payment or use an online payment portal.
Do Your Research
If you find a property listed somewhere and are worried it may be fake, do a Google search of the property address to see where else it shows up. Check sites like Zillow, Apartments.com and Trulia. Read the whole listing to see if it lists the property management company and who to contact. If one of the listings is different from all the others, it may be a fake. Be extra careful when it comes to listings on Facebook, Craigslist, and other sites where anyone can post anything.
Don’t Apply on Third-Party Sites
If you find the listing on sites like Zillow and Trulia, don’t use them to “contact an agent” or “apply”, since they don’t usually connect to the correct place. Follow the instructions in the listing itself, since those are posted directly from a property software to all the third-party sites. If the listing provides a website, make sure to visit that and use that to apply or contact someone.
Read the listing, property details, and website information carefully. There may be additional fees or costs that you might not know you are signing up for. Even if the landlord or manager is completely legitimate, you still need to read the lease thoroughly before you sign it. Numbers can get switched around, or worse, purposely changed. If the landlord does not require a written lease, look for another place! While verbal agreements are legal in some cases, they can be hard to prove in the case of a disagreement.