RentHop, an online rental listing platform, conducted a study that unveiled the most common rental scams and how to avoid them. Here are some warning signs and tips to be on the lookout for:
1. Money wiring: If potential renters are ever asked to wire funds via Western Union or Money Gram or through an “escrow service” before they’ve even seen the property, then the apartment probably doesn't exist. RentHop, which processes thousands of messages between renters and owners each day, says they’ve never seen an instance where one of these payment methods is preferred by the property owner or manager.
2. Asking for any money before seeing the rental: Scammers love to take advantage of customers who are in a state of urgency. Someone who has to move immediately, in a market where rental inventory is low, might do anything it takes to get that ideal apartment locked in. But sending money—by any means—before verifying the property exists and is available is a mistake. This advice excludes the standard request for an application fee (usually between $20 and $100) that will hold the apartment. However, you should encourage renters to search Google for the property manager or owner to make sure they’re reputable before sending a hefty deposit. Do they have a website? Are they mentioned on other websites? Is the person willing to speak to you over the phone?
3. Priced too low: If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. “If the price is below two-thirds of what similar apartments in the area are renting for, there is a 43 percent chance that it is a scam. If it is below half, then there is a 79 percent chance that it is a scam,” the RentHop study finds.
Other suspicious signs:
Email address structure: Emails with non-U.S. domains, such as yahoo.uk, are probably coming from a scam account unless you’re renting in the U.K. Also, email from outlook.com are 19 times more likely to be a scam than those from Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail, the study finds. Also, beware of emails from a different domain than you originally started corresponding with.
“Winner” scams: If the supposed property manager tells the renter that they’ve been “specially selected,” then it’s a scam.
Sad stories: If the person listing the rental goes on and on with a heartbreaking story in your correspondence, they’re likely trying to play on your emotions.
Copycat rentals: A common scam is for a cybercriminal to copy a real listing and treat it as their own. That's why it’s important to search for the address of the rental to ensure the listing price and contact information matches on various sites.
Read more here: