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Protecting Yourself Against Rental Listing Scams

Smartphone with Incoming Call from Potential ScammerAs a renter, it is important to know how to spot a rental listing scam and how to protect yourself. In a competitive rental market, it’s normal for you that you want to find a great Polk County rental at an affordable price. The problem is that scammers know this, too. These con artists mostly dangle too-good-to-be-true rental deals as a lure to get you to contact them. And, once they catch your attention, they will use many different tricks to try and take your money while leaving you without a rental home to show to you. The good news is that rental listing scams are often easy to spot if you understand how they operate. With a bit of good information and a few strategies, you can avoid falling into a rental scammer’s trap.

How to Spot a Scam

Rental scammers utilize several different methods to accomplish their schemes. One common technique is to steal a legitimate rental listing or ad, change the contact information, and place the altered ad on another site. Another common scam is to run ads for rentals that don’t exist or aren’t for rent. They will often include beautiful pictures and a too-good-to-be-true rental rate trying to get you to respond.

Spotting these scams isn’t always easy, but it is possible. The first red flag is usually the rental price. If it seems too low for the local market, it’s probably a scam. Another clue is in the rental listing itself. Rental scammers always work from outside the United States and may post ads with poor grammar, odd wording, or other unusual features. When you encounter an advertisement like that, it is better to avoid it.

When you do contact a rental listing ad that looks legitimate, that is the time you may encounter a few more warning signs. Scammers will always ask you to wire them money for a security deposit, application fee, or first month’s rent. They might even make odd excuses about why they can’t show you the property or claim to be out of the country. Another major red flag is when they demand for you to make arrangements through an “agent” or someone who is not a professional property manager. If you encounter any of these while you are on a rental home search, move on.

How to Protect Yourself

If you become suspicious of a rental listing, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from scammers.

  • Initially, dig a little deeper into the owner or the listing. Make an internet search on both. If you see the same ad with different contact information, this is most probably a scam.
  • If that checks out, ask for a copy of the lease terms in writing and read it carefully. It should spell out all rental payments, fees, and responsibilities.
  • Be cautious not to give out your personal information, including your Social Security number, until you are confident that they are who they say they are.
  • Additionally, don’t forget that you need to have a signed lease before sending any money to the owner or landlord.
  • Never send anyone money by wire transfer or send money for a rental to an overseas address. All of that are clear signs of a scam, and there is a very high possibility that you will never get that money back, even if you report the theft.

Lastly, if you discover a rental listing scam, you need to contact the website where the ad was posted and report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Once you become the target of a scam, it is important to report it to your local police.

You can avoid becoming the victim of a rental listing scam altogether by working with Real Property Management Lakeside. As a professional property manager, we can inform you about upcoming listings that have been verified through the proper channels. Contact us online or give us a call at 863-302-8752 if you’re looking for a great rental in Polk County.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.