BBB Tip: Rental Scam

It's easy to get swept up in the urgency to find a new home, but make sure you do your research to protect yourself from scams.

bedroom with hand with keysFinding a new place to live – or even a vacation rental – can be a time consuming process. Scammers know this and cash in on eager renters who rush into agreements without doing the necessary research. The proliferation of online real estate and vacation rental sites make it easy for scammers to steal photos and descriptions of real places, and free online bulletin boards like Craigslist attract bargain hunters.

How the Scam Works:

Rental scams lure you with online ads touting beautiful homes, low rents, and great amenities. For vacation rentals, everything is handled online. For local rentals, the scammer may claim to be out of town and unable to show the property. In some cases, bold scammers have even gained illegal access to homes belonging to others and have “shown” the property as if they own it!

In either case, the scammer may create a false sense of urgency, telling the prospective renter that others are interested so immediate action is required. The renter puts down a security deposit or prepays a vacation rental, only to find out that the property is not available… or does not exist.

Tips to Avoid This Scam: 

  • Watch out for deals that are too good. Scammers lure you in by promising low rents, extra amenities, great locations, and other perks. If the price seems much better than offered elsewhere, it may be a scam. Search online for the listings, or the scammer’s email address or phone number. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that’s a huge red flag. 
  • See the property in person. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised. And don’t fall for the overseas landlord story: Scammers often claim to be out of the country and instruct targets to send money overseas.

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.

To learn how to protect yourself, go to “10 Steps to Avoid Scams”.

Last Reviewed: March 7, 2017