Rental scams are prevalent and can often appear legitimate if you do not know what to watch out for. Whether you are looking for a new rental unit in a city or in the suburbs, there will be individuals posing as landlords in an attempt to gain access to your personal information and finances. By following the tips outlined within this article, you will be able to avoid getting tricked into the wrong apartment because of these scams.
Scammers want to take advantage of your vulnerability and desperation to find a new place to live. Because of this, you may be tricked into signing a lease for the wrong apartment. Understanding how rental scams occur will help you to identify warning signs and prevent you from falling victim to one of these cons during the emotional process of apartment hunting.
How to Identify a Rental Scam
The first step to avoid being tricked into the wrong apartment is to learn how to identify a rental scam. There are warning signs you can pick up on during the process of reading a listing or setting up a viewing that will alert you to the potential scam.
Many times during a scam, something in the online apartment listing will seem off. If the listing seems much too good to be true, there is a chance that either the landlord is not being entirely truthful about the listing or that the listing is a rental scam.
If you find an apartment listed for a significantly cheaper price than what you anticipated for something of its quality, it is likely a scam. The landlord may be trying to trick you into viewing an apartment he or she is not actually in possession of. She or he may be advertising a premium apartment for a strikingly low price only to then claim that it was just rented out but that there are other (usually much worse and more expensive apartments) available.
Often during rental scams, fake landlords will post pictures of expensive apartments they found online to entice potential tenants into providing personal information.
In contrast, if you find an apartment listing online that does not contain pictures of the property, you may want to avoid this as an option as well. There is a good chance that the apartment will be in very bad condition or simply will not exist when you go to arrange a viewing with the landlord.
Other Signs of Scams
When you are finding the right apartment, one big red flag that should raise the concern of a scam is a rushed application process. If the application process feels rushed and the landlord is attempting to speed the procedure into the final stages or has not spent time following standard procedures, this could be an indication of a rental scam.
Many times, individuals who are running these schemes will want to expedite the process of signing a lease, as this means they have successfully tricked you into the wrong apartment. The longer you take to sign the lease, the higher the likelihood that you will figure out what is going on. If the landlord is being pushy, it may be better to walk away from signing a lease.
Another common red flag that should alert you that something is not quite right is being asked to send money before you have applied for an apartment or signed the lease.
If a landlord is asking you to send money prior to the leases signing, you are likely being tricked. Do not provide money, driver’s license information, your Social Security Number (SSN) or your bank information to anyone prior to signing a legitimate lease. To ensure you are avoiding any potential issues, spend time viewing the apartment in person and verify the identity of the landlord before proceeding with an exchange of money.
What to Do If You Are Being Tricked
If you were unable to avoid a rental scam and have found yourself being tricked into the wrong apartment, you still have options for removing yourself from the situation. The first step to take in this scenario is to notify your local police department. You will need to provide information to law enforcement officials about the scam if you wish to receive your money back and want to help apprehend the individual who scammed you. By notifying the police about what happened, you will not only be protecting yourself, but you will also be able to protect other renters from being tricked by the same person.
After you have notified the local police and have pursued the option of getting your money back, you may also want to contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to alert them of the scam as well. The FTC was formed to protect consumers from several issues, including rental scammers, and may be able to help you handle the situation. If you have been tricked into the wrong apartment, the best way forward is to do what you can to make up any financial losses and to protect yourself against future schemes.
How to Protect Yourself Against Renting the Wrong Apartment
There are additional ways you can protect yourself against renting the wrong apartment aside from learning how to identify a rental scam. You will need to be mindful of what you are looking for in an apartment and should spend time weighing the options you have found to ensure you are making the right selection. Additionally, you can avoid being tricked by a landlord by following these basic rules:
- Insist on receiving a written lease.
- Do not agree to rent an apartment you have not yet seen.
- Take time to meet with the landlord in person.
- Talk with current tenants to learn more.
- Conduct research prior to applying.
The easiest way to avoid being tricked into the wrong apartment is to be proactive in your research methods. By taking time to view the property in person, you will be able to see if the quality of the property matches the quality shown in pictures. This will also present you with the opportunity to meet with the landlord and current tenants to gain perspective on what living in this apartment is actually like. The more research you do, the less likely it is you will fall victim to an apartment scheme. Staying alert and prepared will help you to secure the right apartment.