With most rental home searches being conducted online, those intending to scam prospective renters can easily create duplicate ads by copying real ones and stealing their photos. Though fraudulent ads can be found in many places, they’re commonly found on sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. When renters communicate with those who have posted such ads, the end result is often loss of money and no place to rent. So, how do you spot these fraudulent ads? Here are 7 things to look out for.
1. They won't show you the home
You've been searching for the perfect rental and you found it! The pictures online look like just what you've been seeking, and the home's size and availability date fit your needs. Next step is to request to view the home, right? Well if you're dealing with a scammer, they'll likely come up with reasons that you can't view the home. Those reasons might be that they’re out of town and unable to show it to you, that the current renters haven't moved out, or there’s a large maintenance project being completed, and a showing just isn't possible right now.
However, scammers will encourage you to go ahead and send them money and sign a lease and claim they'll then mail you the key or leave one somewhere for you. This is a huge red flag - legitimate ads from professional property management companies will provide you with showing options, and will have you pick up keys from their office when it’s time to move in. In fact, legitimate companies would prefer you view the property prior to putting down a deposit or signing a lease so that you're sure the home is the right fit for you.
2. The home's address isn't provided
While the address being hidden until you put down a deposit is a common practice for sites like Airbnb, it isn't when it comes to long-term rentals. An authentic property ad will always have the address of the home available so you can be sure it's located in an area that works for you. Also, when reading ads, pay close attention to the location's description - if the property ad boasts "panoramic mountain views" but the home is allegedly located on the NC coast, it's probably fake.
3. The rental price seems too good to be true
You're in the market for a 4-bedroom, 3 bath house and as luck would have it you've found the perfect one at an unbelievable price! As they say, if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. It's unlikely that you're going to find the home just described for $600/month so be wary of artificially low prices as they're another tell-tale sign of a scam. Why would scammers do this? They want you to wire them funds or send cash for the price they've listed – even though the price in their ad is way below market rate, whatever money gets sent to them is still money in their pockets.
4. They want you to send money without seeing the home
This is yet another way that scammers can get ahold of your hard-earned money. If they are insistent upon receiving deposits and/or rent via wire transfer or cash before you can view the home, they're probably going to disappear as soon as they receive the payment. The problem with these types of payments is once they're sent, they're virtually untraceable. Legitimate property management companies and landlords will readily accept payments via credit/debit card, checks, or an automatic draft from your checking account.
5. They want to move forward without checking your income and references
If you've fallen on hard times financially and your credit has taken a hit, a rental ad that offers no credit check or reference requirements may seem tempting. However, legitimate property management companies will always want to get some background information from you to ensure that you have good rental history and the income to cover the rent alongside your regular bills. If an ad boasts "no credit check" or "no references required", you should keep searching.
6. They're always out of town or out of the country
Like we mentioned in #1, the elusive scammer will come up with a multitude of reasons and excuses as to why you can't meet them in person. They will claim they've already moved out of the area, that a family member is gravely ill, or that they're on an extended vacation to avoid meeting prospective renters. Be wary of these excuses - legitimate property managers and landlords will always make the effort to meet tenants (whether in person or virtually) or provide trustworthy ways to conduct business electronically.
7. The listing is copied
How do scammers get enough information on properties to make their ads sound real? Well, they copy real ones - usually word-for-word. If you're questioning the legitimacy of a rental ad, do a bit of research. Googling ads - either the text of the ad or the address if you have one - will likely bring up the real ad that is clearly coming from a property management company. Duplicate ads with different contact information are always a sign that the one with contradictory information or little contact information is probably a hoax.
There are dozens of ways sneaky scammers can attempt to dupe renters out of their money, but these 7 things are among the most common. When you're searching for your new home, always be sure to carefully look at all aspects of the ad and if you get that gut feeling that something is wrong, it probably is.
Companies like Sweyer Property Management will always have our listings featured on our website. Though we do syndicate listings out to other popular rental sites, those listings will still have our business name and contact information present in the ad.
Sweyer Property Management is a full-service professional property management company that specializes in all aspects of rental management. If you’re an investor or property owner looking to learn more about our services and what a professional property manager can do for you, reach out to us today at 910.256.3031 or via our website.