From newspaper ads to scams
At one point in our lives most of us looked for a rental property that would fit our needs. In the old days we would pick up the newspaper and look through the classifieds to find what we were looking for. We would call the number listed in the ad and were on our way to meet the owner to check out the place. In today’s world it works something like this: We open up the computer, we connect and start searching for rentals online. Google will show us hundreds of websites in less than 0.28 seconds when we type in “homes for rent”. We can read full-length descriptions, browse through pictures of the properties and we can instantly send an email to the owners. But are we really communicating to the real owner?
What is rental scam?
A rental scam happens when someone posing as the owner of a property through an online ad is renting out “his” property to unsuspected victims. Scammers know that finding the right apartment is a lot of work and a very emotional experience as well. To put it simply, they play on their victim’s vulnerability.
The most common way these scammers use are by hijacking real rental property ads that are displayed online. They simply copy the ads, use the pictures and repost them on different websites – such as the very popular Craigslist - with their contact information. Once you start communicating with them through email, these rip-off artists intension is that they get your money before you find out they are not the real owners of the property.
How to recognize them?
You have to be savvy when looking for a rental property and in order to avoid being scammed, read through the list below carefully that are the main red flags you should be looking for.
- They tell you to wire money
- They want you to send a security deposit or first month’s rent before meeting or signing
- They claim that they are out of the country
- Be weary of emails full of misspelling
- They are putting too much pressure on you to sign before seeing the home
- Be suspicious of a price that seems to good to be true – In fact in almost all cases the hijacked ads are offered on other sites for a much lower price to lure in people.
- “Owner” only interacts online, never in person or on the phone
- The email addresses you ad Dear Sir/Madam