Finding a new place to live is a time-consuming and difficult process. Giving a deposit on an apartment is a significant commitment and should not be treated lightly. While the vast majority of rental ads are honest, it's no secret that fraudsters constantly scour the web for unsuspecting tenants. 

Scammers have easy access to naive customers because the vast majority of rental searches now begin online. It can be difficult to determine which postings are legitimate. 

Fake Real Estate Sites 

If a company claims they can provide a list of pre-foreclosure or rent-to-own rental homes, run the other way. The low price makes the idea appealing, but a one-time sign-up payment or a high monthly fee is a scam. There's no way to get your money back after signing up, and the list is full of fake or out-of-date real estate listings. 

Avoid this scam by searching rental listings on Rentler. On Rentler, you can find a dozen premium-quality listings. When landlords are willing to rent, they post their listings, so they’re easy to find — it’s as easy as that. 

Not Able to Meet in Person 

It's never a good sign when the person who posted a rental ad says they can't or don't want to meet the prospective tenant in person. If a face-to-face meeting isn't possible, a live video tour of the rental can provide the same information. 

It is in the landlord’s best interest to make sure they can meet potential tenants in person or virtually. In-person interactions can boost mutual trust and confidence for both parties. Con artists and scammers don’t meet face-to-face to avoid having their scams exposed. 

No Background or Credit Check Required 

Before renting out a property, landlords and rental agencies frequently run a tenant's credit to see if they are creditworthy. Tenants should do their research on the property management company to make sure they aren't being taken advantage of by someone offering a fake rental with lax requirements.

The process of vetting prospective renters is crucial. By filling it out, a prospective tenant demonstrates an eagerness to commit to the lease and the ability to pay rent on time. If a landlord asks you to sign a lease after only exchanging emails with you and knowing nothing about your credit history, it is probably a fraud. 

Copy-and-Pasted Ads 

A scammer may copy and paste a valid listing for an unoccupied unit that includes an attractive description but with a far lower asking price. This piques an applicant’s curiosity, and in turn, prompts a speedy payment of the required security deposit. 

This is referred to as a “clone scam.” It works well for tenants who are either too busy to visit the rental property in person or who are moving in from out of town. Another red flag is if they ask for an enormous security deposit. 

We strongly advise against paying a security deposit or the first month's rent before signing a lease and meeting the landlord. Never send anything other than an application fee before these vital steps: 

  • Make sure the space is available.
  • Be certain that the person you're dealing with is associated with the property. ● The lease lists you as a legitimate tenant.

If you're renting from out of town and can't see the property in person, do some research and look up the address online to see if there are any other listings. 

How to Prevent Rental Scams 

Before you move on with any rental property, make sure to: 

Analyze the rental listing. 

Search for a new home only using secure online listing services. Question any property if it’s only listed on any sites you may not know or trust. Using the suggestions above, make sure the rental listing you’re considering looks legitimate. Skip and report if there are any warning signs or red flags. 

Meet the landlord face-to-face. 

Meeting in person or at least virtually is a must. Will you get along well? Do they appear welcoming and eager to rent you the apartment? And most importantly, are they authorized

property managers or landlords? Make sure they ask the normal pre-screening questions, and you can request any additional information about the property. 

Visit the property. 

Although this can be time-consuming, in-person viewings allow you to confirm the details in the listing and help you decide whether you want to live there before signing an agreement. This is also an opportunity to meet the landlord or property manager and get to know them better. 

If you cannot visit the property, we recommend requesting a trusted friend, family member, or coworker to see the apartment for you. 

On Rentler, landlords provide listings with high-quality photos, and potential renters can request a tour. More landlords and companies are opting to provide virtual tours during the COVID-19 pandemic's lockdown. 

Tips to Prevent Rental Fraud 

Even if a listing appears to be genuine, take your time and conduct thorough research before making any payments or signing any documents. The following tips will help you avoid becoming a victim of rental fraud: 

  1. Never send money ahead of time. If the person you're speaking with asks you to send money through a suspicious service, take precautions and reassess the listing's validity. 
  2. Don't provide too much personal information. If you haven't seen the property, you don't need to submit images of your ID card, passport, social security number, or tax ID. Scammers frequently use this technique to collect ID photos of people in order to use them for identity fraud. 
  3. Verify the landlord’s identity. It is critical to identify the landlord and make direct contact with him or her, or at the very least, with the current tenants. 

4. Be aware of fake social media accounts or profiles. Check to see if the company's official social media page or profile is available online. Be wary of social media fraud and only use secure listing websites.