Bogus Apartment Rentals

It’s never a good idea to wire money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen.

The Bait:

In your search for an apartment or vacation rental, you find a great prospect at a great price. It can be yours if you wire money – for an application fee, security deposit, or the first month’s rent. The owners might say they’re out of the country. But they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or “agent” working on their behalf.

The Catch:

Once you’ve wired the money, it’s gone. Then, you learn there is no rental. A scammer hijacked a legitimate rental listing by changing the contact information and placing the altered ad on other sites. Or, there never was a rental. A scammer made up a listing for a place that isn’t for rent or doesn’t exist, using a below-market price to lure you in.

If you’re the one with a rental property, watch out for the reverse: a potential renter who says she wants to cancel her deposit and asks you to wire the money back – before you realize the check is a fake.

What You Can Do:

There’s never a good reason to wire money to cover a security deposit, an application fee, or a first month’s rent.

  • If you can’t visit the rental yourself, ask someone you trust to see it for you.
  • Be skeptical of landlords who say they’re out of the country; don’t wire money to someone overseas.
  • Do a search to see if the same listing is listed elsewhere with a different name or phone number.

If you find yourself the target of a rental scam, report it to your local law enforcement and also to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Contact the website where the ad was posted, as well.

 

Report Online Scams

If you believe you’ve responded to an online scam, file a complaint with: