Tips to Avoid Rental Scams
You just saw an ad for the perfect housing rental. It’s located in the neighborhood you want, the monthly rent is lower than you’ve seen anywhere else and the landlord doesn’t require a credit check. It sounds too good to be true!
It may well be. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2021 Internet Crime Report there were more than 11,500 internet crimes related to real estate/rentals. A 2022 review of Better Business Bureau data showed Alaska had the 11th highest rate of reported scams in the United States.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
What Kind of Scams Are Out There?
There are a number of ways you can be deceived into thinking a rental is real. One of the most common is an ad for rentals that get hijacked by scammers. The contact information on the ad may be revised so that you connect with the scammer rather than a legitimate landlord. Knowing how reputable the website is that’s showing rental listings can reduce the risk of scams.
Scammers can also access a property owner’s email so it’s important to confirm who you're communicating with.
With “phantom rentals” a scammer can create fake ads online for a rental property that doesn’t exist. Often, these are the ads that look too good to be true. Make sure you check the property out in person to ensure it’s a real listing.
Another common scam is to have someone who is not the real owner, and doesn’t have authority to rent to you, try to illegally sublet a home. Making sure the rental is managed by a reputable company can help prevent this from occurring.
How to Spot a Scam
Doing your due diligence can help – for example, confirming who you’re communicating with, understanding the reputability of the property manager or the website with rental listings. You should also look out for some common red flags.
Tips to Protect Yourself
There are steps you can take to protect yourself. Doing your due diligence and thoroughly checking out a potential listing is important. Here are some tips on how to avoid getting scammed.
How to Report a Scam
If a rental scam does occur, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you report it to your local law enforcement, and to the FTC. If the scam occurred online, the FTC recommends contacting the website where the ad was posted as well.