Protect yourself from rental rip-offs

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — We all need a place to call home, but there are unsavory types out there who are ready to rob you of your deposit and first and last month’s rent.

There are a couple of ways scammers will lure you in, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Hijacked Ads
Some scammers hijack a real rental or real estate listing by changing the email address or other contact information, and placing the modified ad on another site. The altered ad may even use the name of the person who posted the original ad. In other cases, scammers have hijacked the email accounts of property owners on reputable vacation rental websites.

Phantom Rentals
Other rip-off artists make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist, and try to lure you in with the promise of low rent, or great amenities. Their goal is to get your money before you find out.

A crazy low price is one caution sign. If an ad lists a four bedroom apartment with everything updated at a price that is way below market rates, you might want to stay away. The FBI suggests renters “research the average rental rates in that area and be suspicious if the rate is significantly lower.”

When it comes to money, beware of anyone asking for money before you’ve even seen the place. The Better Business Bureau says “Don’t pay any money before inspecting the home, inside and out.”

If you’re asked to wire money to a “landlord”, don’t! “This is the surest sign of a scam,” the FTC says.

Rental scams and other scams have been common on the popular classified listing site Craigslist.

craigslist rental Protect yourself from rental rip offs


They’ve built a section on their site specifically about how to avoid scam & fraud. Included on that page is a list of what Craigslist calls “common-sense rules”. They include:

  • Deal Locally With Folks You Can Meet In Person
  • Never Wire Funds Via Western Union, Moneygram
  • Fake Cashier Checks & Money Orders Are Common — Banks Will Hold You Responsible
  • Do Not Rent Housing Or Purchase Goods Sight-Unseen
  • Do Not Submit To Credit Or Background Checks until you have met the job interviewer or landlord/agent in person.

If you think you’ve been a victim of a scam, report it to authorities at the Federal Trade Commission or Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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