Know the signs of an online rental scam

Is that apartment a dream come true, or an online rental scam?

You’re searching for an apartment online and you spot one that looks awesome…but there are no photos and the owner lives out of town. The owner asks to you wire money for your security deposit.

You think to yourself: Is this a huge find, or a scam?

A Buffalo woman recently told WIVB TV that she lost $800 from a Craigslist rental scam. She wired the money to a “landlord” out of state, but it turns out that person didn’t even own the property. WKBW-TV reported a new variation in the rental scam. The scammer contacts a legitimate listing and pretends to be interested in renting the property. They gain the access to the property but instead, use it to show the property to potential victims.

Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker shows close to 160 rental scams reported across the country, some right here in Upstate New York. Some people report losing over $3,000.

Do you know the warning signs?

rental scam

Big sign For Rent in front of townhouses

BBB has the following tips for people looking for an apartment online: 

The ad doesn’t have photos. It’s possible that a normal ad may not have pictures. But if the ad describes fabulous amenities, where are the pictures to show off the property?

The contact information does not include a phone number. Scam postings usually only provide an email address. If the email address looks like a string of consonants, the poster is using auto-generated email accounts so that they can’t be tracked.

The price is *too* cheap. If the ad offers extra benefits such as free heat or electricity, low or no security deposit, those should be red flags.

Credit check not required. A credit check is common step in renting an apartment. Be wary of a listing that says “no credit check!” or encourages people with bad credit or prior evictions to apply.

The address is never revealed. If the “landlord” is making you jump through hoops before telling you where the property is located, there’s a good chance that it does not exist.

If you suspect a rental scam, visit BBB’s Scam Tracker to report it.



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