When it comes to the World Wide Web, there’s one rule of thumb you can’t afford to ignore: Just because it’s on the Internet, doesn’t mean it’s true.
Take your next door neighbors who were duped into renting a cute little two-bedroom apartment, with all the bells and whistles, who learned that the home didn’t even exist—once the moving van was packed and they had departed on their out-of-state journey.
While it may sound inconceivable to fall for a scam regarding something as serious as a fake house, rental scams are becoming more prevalent in today’s tech-driven world.
Before you find yourself daydreaming about kicking your feet up in a space that’s too good to be true, Harini Venkatesan—COO and co-founder of RentalRoost, Inc.—offers the following tips to help you steer clear of becoming a rental scam victim.
First and foremost, before you agree to rent an apartment or home, set up a meeting with the landlord so you can see the property in-person. “Some scammers say they can’t show you the property because they’re ‘out of town’ and they plan on getting the keys to you through a lawyer/agent,” says Venkatesan. “This is almost always a scam, so beware of any properties where you haven’t actually seen the landlord at the property.”
Next, Venkatesan suggests using a reputable website—and doing your homework—to ensure the property is exactly what it says it is. If you stumble across a property that’s listed way below the average rental price for the area, consider it a red flag.
“Some scammers use the story that they are out of town or out of the country so you will have to wire them money before they hand over the keys,” says Venkatesan, who can’t stress just how important it is to never wire money to anyone in this situation. “Even if the deal seems appealing, resist! It’s highly probable that this is a scam, and you’re likely to lose a lot of money in the process.”
It’s also important to trust your gut when it comes to avoiding falling prey to a rental scam. “If your gut instinct is giving you an indication that the landlord doesn’t seem entirely honest, do a quick Google search to see if anyone else has posted a report regarding a scam related to the landlord,” says Venkatesan.
And last but not least, planning ahead is one more way to ensure you don’t become the next rental scam horror story. Not only will having an adequate amount of time keep you from making a hasty decision, it’ll also keep you from ignoring any warning signs that pop up along the way.