BBB: What to watch for in rental scams

BBB: What to watch for in rental scams
Scams usually use beautiful pictures, great amenities and low rent to lure in victims. (Source: Pexels)

(KFVS) - Renters may want to give their lease a second look before signing.

Better Business Bureau officials said scammers may try to take advantage of a renter’s frustration when looking for the right place at the right price.

Scams usually use beautiful pictures, great amenities and low rent to lure in victims.

They may also advertise a sense of urgency to put money down as soon as possible when, in reality, the apartment is already rented or doesn’t exist.

BBB officials said the same tactics may be applied to vacation rentals.

Check out the in-depth investigative study on these scams in 2019. The study found that 43 percent of consumers shopping online for a rental property encountered a fake listing, with more than 5,000,000 people falling for one.

“While a great rental at a great price might be tempting, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB St. Louis president and CEO. “Consumers shouldn’t rush into renting housing sight-unseen, but should take time to verify the details of listings that interest them.”

BBB officials listed common red flags in an apartment rental scam:

  • Requests to provide prepaid gift card information or wire funds.
  • Typos and grammatical or other errors during discussion or in the ad.
  • Requests for your bank account number, Social Security number or a code sent to your cell phone.
  • The email address used by the person who posted the listing does not sound like a person’s name. That may indicate an auto-generated email account, preferred because they are difficult to trace.
  • The “seller” isn’t willing to reveal the house’s address until you reply to their ad or fill out a “free credit report” designed to steal personal information.
  • You cannot inspect the property prior to making a decision.
  • The rent is much lower than similar properties in the area.
  • The owner is located out of state or in another country and may instruct targets to send money overseas in order to secure the home.
  • An identical ad is listed in other cities.

BBB recommends the following when searching for housing rentals:

  • Research the property and its owner. Look for the owner's name, phone number and email address online. Ask to inspect the property before making a decision. Check property records via the local assessor’s office to determine if the person actually owns the property.
  • See the property in person or ask someone you trust to check it out. Don’t send money to someone you don’t know for an apartment you haven’t seen.
  • Understand your responsibilities and rights. Read the lease carefully before signing and discuss any unclear points with the landlord. The lease should tell you how much your rent will be, for what period of time and what maintenance services your landlord provides.
  • If a security deposit is required, find out before you sign the lease what it covers and the conditions for a refund. Make a list of any damages present when you move in and again when you move out to compare with the landlord's list.

Check out a company’s BBB Business Profile, register a complaint or post a review at bbb.org. Report any scams to BBB Scam Tracker.

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