If an apartment listing on Craigslist sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are some tips on how both renters and landlords can avoid being taken in by rental scams.
With classified websites like Craigslist becoming one of the most popular ways to advertise or search for a rental property, online rental scammers have become more and more prominent. Falling for a rental scam can end up costing you thousands of dollars and can even result in identity theft. Whether you’re seeking a new place to live, or listing your property for rent, follow these tips to recognize a phony listing or renter and avoid becoming the victim of a rental scammer.
1. Remember: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Scammers list rental properties for hundreds of dollars less than similar properties in the area, often with real addresses and photos copied from legitimate listings. Or they’ll answer a listing offering to rent a property sight unseen. The golden rule of Craigslist is to only deal locally and in person. Be sure to meet with anyone you deal with online and investigate their credentials before doing business.
2. Get everything in writing.
Never agree to make a deposit on a rental without first signing a lease. The person showing you the property may not even have a legal right to rent it to you, and may end up making off with your deposit and leaving you without a place to live. You should also never agree to rent out a property without meeting with the renter to sign the lease. Scammers will often claim to be out of the country and offer to make a deposit by cashier’s check, only to later back out of the agreement and request a portion of the deposit back. The check will bounce, but not until after you’ve cashed it, leaving you with high bank fees and a negative balance while the scammer disappears with your money.
3. Never send personal information through the Internet.
If you reply to a listing and are asked to fill out an online credit check before seeing the property, delete the message and move on. Scammers will use fake credit checks to retrieve your personal information, like your social security number and bank account information, to steal your money and even your identity. It’s best to never click on any links sent to you through Craigslist, unless you can verify the website to which they lead. You should always insist on meeting in person to view the rental and fill out any necessary paperwork. You should also research the property to ensure that the person you’re meeting is the real owner or manager.
The bottom line is you should always know who you’re dealing with when renting a property listed on Craigslist, or listing a property for rent. Avoid deals that seem too good to be true, only deal in person, and get everything in writing. If you’re moving to another city or state, experts recommend you only deal with a licensed agent to avoid being scammed. Follow these tips and you can protect your money, and your identity, from online scammers.