Are you looking for a new apartment? Whether you’re using ApartmentFinder.com, browsing Craigslist or simply asking around, make sure you know how to avoid apartment rental scams. Don’t get ripped off by a bad landlord, tricked into a misleading lease agreement or scammed out of a security deposit for an apartment that doesn’t even exist!
Tenant fraud and landlord fraud are nothing new but as the apartment-hunting process has become more digital, it’s become easier to trick unsuspecting victims out of their hard-earned paychecks.
So here’s 4 tips that can help you stay safe from apartment rental scams:
Tip #1: Never Wire Money for Your Deposit
As with most scams, being asked to wire money or send a check too early on in the process is a huge red flag.
In one common online apartment rental scam, the fraudster will tell you that you’re the “perfect” tenant — before you’ve seen the place, submitted an application, or even spoken on the phone — and ask you to send a security deposit via Western Union, MoneyGram or another wire transfer service.
As the FTC points out:
“Wiring money is the same as sending cash—once you’ve sent it, you can’t get it back.”
Remember, leasing a new apartment isn’t a quick process. Don’t deal with anyone who wants you to send money right away.
Tip #2: Never Rush Yourself
While many apartment scammers will try to rip you off through email alone, others may invite you to view the apartment in person first. Keep your guard up.
Scammers don’t want you to take your time when you’re looking at an apartment. Fraudsters will rush you and pressure you into making a decision. When you feel like this is happening, take a step backwards and evaluate the entire situation.
Not only is pressure to “act now or miss out” a common warning sign of a scam, but even if they’re not a true scammer, you should avoid any potential landlord who’s going to make you feel uncomfortable.
Tip #3: Ask Yourself if It’s Too Good to Be True
Ever find yourself looking at an incredible listing on a beautiful property with a breathtaking view? Ever find yourself doing a double-take when you saw the price? Many scammers post false listings are in print ads or online to bilk apartment hunters out of money.
When you see a listing that looks like it should be a lot more expensive than it is, you’ve probably got a scam on your hands.
Tip #4: Watch Out for Fake Checks
Not all apartment scams target tenants. It’s also possible to get scammed when you’re trying to rent out your own property.
The scam goes like this: a potential tenant will tell you there’s a cashier’s check at the ready. Due to an error, the amount on the check will be more than the price of the apartment.They ask you to deposit the check, then wire back the difference.
Problem is, when the bank figures out the check you received was a phony, you’re going to be responsible for paying it back. And you can’t exactly get a refund on that money that you wired, either.
Got a Hot Tip for Us?
Do you have any advice for dodging scams while looking for a new place to live?
Fraudsters and scammers are getting trickier and trickier, so if you know of some good advice, feel free to share it with us in the comments!