As you begin searching for a new property rental, it’s important to educate yourself on property rental fraud. Rental fraud is as old as the landlord-tenant relationship. Historically, the most common fraud has been landlords keeping tenants’ security deposits. Recently, with technology being more wide-spread and the landlord-tenant relationship being more anonymous, the opportunity for property rental fraud has never been greater.
What to be aware of
- Unconventional payment methods. Is someone asking you to send them money via Western Union, Moneygram, or Prepaid Visa card? Most rental fraud is based on convincing people to send money. This can be to a “landlord” or third party who is not who they pretend to be.
- Unbelievably low property rental price. Scam artists will often make the property rental price in their listings very low to attract as many potential renters as possible. A deal that sounds too good to be true probably is!
- You are urged to act quickly. Scam artists can attempt to create a false sense of urgency in an attempt to get people to send them money before they have time to think the situation through. They may ask you to send money before viewing the rental property or meeting in person. There is no good reason to do so. If someone really wants to rent to you, they will take the time to meet you in person and show you their property.
- The listing seems “off.” When considering a property rental, take some time to do a Google search. Google the address of the apartment and also the landlord’s name and the name of the management company.
- You can’t speak to the current tenants. Landlords are usually showing a unit that is currently occupied. Occupied units are far less likely to be fraudulent operations. If you have a chance, speak to the current tenants outside of the presence of the landlord to find out how the landlord treats tenants and whether anything unusual is taking place.