How to Spot a Rental Scam

Spotting a rental scam can be crucial in protecting yourself from financial loss and potential fraud.

Recently, we were looking for a room for rent. It sounded like an ideal place, in the right location, for the right amount. My alarm bells should have been sounding from the get-go. But we decided to proceed. Everything seemed typical until we got to the part where she discussed rental and application fees. No biggie right – no scam alerts yet. Then she stated that he would have to fill out an application to view the room under the premise that if he didn’t like it, it would be refunded. 

There it was – alarm bells. I immediately did a reverse look-up of the number to see if the name provided matched – and no info could be found – another alarm bell. He told her to contact me and guess what – no calls. Thankfully, I was able to catch this before any money was provided or an actual email was given – as this is where they can hack you as well. 

Without further delay, here are some signs that may indicate a rental scam:

  • Unrealistic or too-good-to-be-true offers: Scammers often lure victims with exceptionally low prices or luxurious properties at a fraction of the market rate. If the deal appears too good to be true, it’s likely a scam.
  • Request for upfront payment or wire transfers: If the landlord or agent asks you to wire money or pay a large sum upfront before signing any documents or viewing the property, it’s a red flag. Legitimate landlords typically require a security deposit or first-month’s rent after signing a lease agreement.
  • Absence of property viewings: Scammers may provide excuses for not allowing you to visit the property or claim they are currently out of town. They might even offer fabricated reasons such as renovations or ongoing repairs. Always insist on visiting the property before making any payments.
  • Lack of proper documentation: Legitimate landlords will provide a lease agreement or rental contract outlining the terms and conditions. Be wary of landlords who refuse to provide written documentation or use generic, poorly constructed contracts.
  • Pressure tactics and urgency: Scammers may use high-pressure tactics, claiming that there are multiple interested parties or that you need to act quickly to secure the rental. They want you to make impulsive decisions without thoroughly considering the details.
  • Communication irregularities: Poor grammar, spelling mistakes, excessive capitalization, or generic email responses can indicate a scam. Legitimate landlords and agents generally maintain professional communication.
  • Unverified or untraceable contacts: Scammers often use untraceable email addresses, generic names, or free online messaging services. They may avoid providing a physical address or use fake contact information.
  • Inability to meet in person: If the landlord or agent refuses to meet you face-to-face or conduct video calls, it raises suspicion. Physical interaction and communication are essential when dealing with rental properties.
  • Duplicate listings or stolen property images: Scammers may copy legitimate rental listings from reputable websites and repost them with altered contact details. Perform a reverse image search to check if the property photos are stolen from elsewhere.
  • Trust your instincts: If something feels off or doesn’t seem right, trust your gut feeling. It’s better to walk away from a potentially fraudulent situation than to risk losing your money or personal information.

Remember, scammers continuously come up with new tactics, so stay vigilant and educate yourself about common rental scams. Whenever possible, work with reputable real estate agents, use trusted rental platforms, and conduct thorough research before entering into any agreements.

If you are looking to buy or sell or need an agent to help provide resources, check out our PCS map below and click on “Connect with the PCS Professional” at the location you need. 

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