It’s exciting to search for a new apartment, new neighborhood, and new favorite hangout spot, but don’t let your excitement get the best of you. While you might find the apartment of your dreams, you could also stumble upon a scam. Simply put, a scam is when a criminal tries to get money for an apartment they’re not planning on renting. Once you know how rental scams work, they’re a lot easier to spot. Read our handy dandy guide to make sure you don’t fall prey to one of today’s top tricks!
SCAM #1: Purchasing a Credit Report
According to the Better Business Bureau, three of the most common scams stem from Craigslist. In one, fake apartment posts require potential tenants to purchase credit reports and provide a link for purchase. Scammers receive a commission for each report. Not only does this scam charge you for an unnecessary service, it could hurt your credit score since your score is affected each time your report is accessed.
SPOT THIS SCAM! You should never be required to purchase a credit report from a specific agency. If your realtor or landlord has a specific preference, they should handle the credit check themselves, although you could be required to reimburse them. Price caps for application fees—including credit reports—exist in certain states. For instance, a California realtor cannot charge more than $42.06 for an application.
SCAM #2: Duplicate or Fake Apartment Listings With Low Prices
Another scam involves creating fake listings with great prices. These properties can be reposted from legitimate sources but with lower prices (and no authority to rent) or can be completely imaginary. Prospective renters are then asked to make a deposit via wire transfer.
SPOT THIS SCAM! You know how sometimes something just feels hinky? If a posting seems too good to be true and you’re not given a chance to check out the property before making a payment, it probably is. There are two big lessons to be learned from this scam. First, you should never pay a deposit on an apartment you haven’t seen in person. Even if it’s not a scam like this, you still want to make sure the apartment is as-advertised. Second, you should never make a deposit by wire transfer. Wiring money is the same as mailing cash: once sent, there’s no way to get it back.
SCAM #3: Fake Listings, Fake Fees
A third scam stems from the creation of fake “realtor service” companies which claim to provide renters with access to special rental listings (pre-foreclosure rentals, rent-to-own properties, etc.) for a fee. Most of the time, these companies have no connection to the properties they claim to represent.
SPOT THIS SCAM! If you’re going to use a realtor or apartment search service, make sure it is reliable. Check the company’s Better Business Bureau rating, find its website and reviews, and less technically, make sure the business and its offers pass the “smell test.” If something smells fishy, it probably is.
Not all apartment listings are created equally. That’s why it’s more important than ever to use a reliable apartment search engine. When you find an apartment through ApartmentSearch.com, you can be sure you’re dealing with a verified, legitimate apartment complex and landlord. Not only can we help you avoid expensive and irritating scams, we can also help you get a $200 reward when you let your new landlord know that you used ApartmentSearch.com! It may sound too good to be true, but it’s far from it!