Hunting for a new apartment is the beginning of a new chapter in your life. Internet listings on Craigslist and other online sources are convenient for prospective renters, but it’s paved a path of apartment rental scams in recent years. If you’re a first time renter or are apprehensive of becoming a victim to ruthless scammers, here's some good advice to avoid financial loss, a world of headaches and vulnerability.
What are Apartment Rental Scams?
If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. The goal of any scammer is to obtain financial gain without legally delivering an apartment to you. There are various scenarios where you can get swindled, but the outcome of all apartment rental scams are the same. Once you’ve forked over excessive upfront fees and security deposits, the crook has vanished, and your money is never to be seen again.
Trust Your Gut
When you get caught up in the moment, it’s easy to utilize one of the most important tools you have -- your intuition. Apartment rental scams and landlord fraud aren’t new, and it’s possible to visit an apartment and meet with a supposed landlord. But if the process feels rushed, and the person you meet is applying major pressure for you to hand over money before signing a lease, listen to your internal voice, and don’t overlook these signs.
Universal Red Flags
You're asked to wire money or send a cashier’s check before you’ve seen the apartment or met with the landlord.
The landlord requires little to no information from you.
The security deposit is unusually high, or there’s a number of upfront fees.
The process feels rushed, or the landlord is acting pushy.
The landlord says you don’t need a lawyer.
There’s only verbal promises and nothing in writing, such as a lease or rental agreement.
You’re given multiple excuses for not meeting you or showing the apartment.
You’ve Been Scammed
At this point, you will feel angry, embarrassed or a state of denial, but take steps to prevent others from becoming another victim to apartment rental scams. Call the police, notify the publisher of the fraudulent listing, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission, and share your story. The best case scenario is the scammer is caught, and you get your money back. Otherwise, consider this experience a lesson learned, and have faith you will find the perfect apartment.