Ever see an apartment listing that looked too good to be true? It might be a clever scam–even if the house is real.
Easier, however, isn’t always safer. More than 43 percent of renters have found listings that seem fraudulent, and more than 5 million have been scammed, often losing thousands of dollars, according to a new report from Apartment List, a rental listing website.
The most common scams include the “bait-and-switch,” which is when a different property is advertised than the one that is actually available. The scammer tries to collect a deposit or get a lease signed for this property.
Another is the “hijacked ad,” which can even happen on homes that are legitimately for sale. The scammer poses as a fake landlord, advertising the for-sale home, but changing the contact information. Another scam is listing a property that is already leased and then trying to collect application fees or security deposits.
Some scams also happen on legitimate listings. The landlord will advertise amenities that don’t actually exist and then try to collect higher rent before the applicant realizes they are missing. Once the lease is signed, it becomes more difficult for the renter to get out of the deal. Of renters who have lost money in rental scams, 1 in 3 have lost more than $1,000, most often from paying a security deposit or rent on a fraudulent property.
So be safe, and don’t pay money for an apartment you haven’t seen in person!