Don’t Let a Rental Scam Ruin Your American Dream

Posted on Apr 20 2015 - 11:33am by Paige Tepping

apt rentals

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.

Related: Beware, Mortgage Scammers on the Rise Again

“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.

Paige_ThumbPaige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. She has a hard time believing that everything on the Internet is not in fact true.


8 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Mike Cummings April 21, 2015 at 8:21 am -

    Another suggestion from a Northern Michigan Real Estate Broker: Before signing anything or forking over any funds, check tax records to make sure that the “landlord” is actually the owner of the property being rented. And if the person offering the rental is not, ask questions and insist on talking with the owner or the owner’s legal agent.

    • Paige Tepping April 21, 2015 at 12:37 pm -

      Great tip to add to the list, Mike!

  2. Mary Sheridan April 25, 2015 at 8:28 am -

    Scammer posted my listing pictures on Craigslist and told prospects that the agent couldn’t sell it and wouldn’t remove the sign – ignore her, send application and if approved… Several I know of were “approved” and told to send money – then called me and got the truth. They’d been shown “proof” of the rental agent’s story – an email from the seller (elderly man who had been dead for several years.)

  3. Eileen May 2, 2015 at 9:02 am -

    I saw a scam in craigslist from an out-of-towner who had a home for rent. In this town, homes that accept large dogs are a rarity, so that is what got me looking; I checked the tax records and my husband rode his bike past the property. The owners on the tax records was an LLC (father and son) and my busband saw a for sale by owner sign. So both us knew right away it was a scam since the alleged owner said he and his wife were the owner.

  4. DIANE CULLEN May 11, 2015 at 11:11 am -

    I have had 2 rental listings copied and posted on Zillow from a scammer.

  5. Holl July 8, 2015 at 4:29 pm -

    You can take your research a step further…if they say they are a “manager” you can check to see if they are a licensed business (in Florida) by checking on

  6. Susan Mazorlig September 18, 2015 at 11:21 am -

    Happened at our office. A woman came in looking for the keys to her rental home. (Our agency doesn’t handle rentals) When we questioned her, the “Landlord” told her that he was on vacation but we had the keys. She showed us the printed rental listing from Craigslist. Apparently, this enterprising thief grabbed a photo from our MLS, cropped, copied and pasted it into his Craigslist ad. It was the first time she had rented and she gave him her credit card number to pay her security thinking she was paying our agency. (We also don’t take credit cards). I told her to report it to the police and cancel her credit card. Just because you see it on your computet doesn’t mean it’s real. A very hard lesson to learn for this woman.

  7. marvin koch September 19, 2015 at 12:38 pm -

    Having been a real estate agent and investor who has had a home rented since 2006 I have run across numerous possible scams. My suggestion is have a respectful real estate agent,have all paperwork cleared through an attorney if needed,let your agent handle all financial arrangements. Keep in mind that all moneys regarding rentals are tax deductible,just keep good records and a reliable tax accountant. You can have an attorney on call rather than on contract. I have used my attorney four times since 2006. They only charge for services rendered.