Red flags to look for amid spike in rental scams

Projected $16.1 billion annual loss due to rental fraud, according to Dwellsy survey
Published: Jul. 17, 2023 at 4:00 PM EDT
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(InvestigateTV) — More than 40% of people said they or someone they knew had personally lost money because of rental fraud, according to a 2022 Dwellsy survey.

Renter scams can vary, but one common one is the “fake listing scam.”

According to Dwellsy, here is how the scam works:

The fraudster steals a legitimate apartment listing and reposts it, with different contact information and significantly cheaper rent. Then, when potential renters reach out to learn more about the apartment, the scammer tries to get their personal information, oftentimes a social security number or driver’s license. The fake landlord will then ask for a deposit before allowing the renter to see the property and disappear.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning of a spike in real estate scams last summer, noting a steady increase in these cons over the last three years.

Dwellsy has advice to avoid fake listing scams:

Use a safe site to search for listings: Sites that charge landlords a fee to post properties can be more reputable.

Look for duplicate listings when you search: If you see the same property over and over with different prices, be skeptical.

Tour the property and meet the landlord before signing a contract or giving a deposit.

If there is pressure to pay, walk away.

Be wary if the price is significantly lower than most listings: If it’s too good to be true, it likely is.

Avoid paying through Venmo or Zelle and other peer-to-peer payment options: If fraud is found, there is no easy way to recover the payment.