Rental listing scams are a real issue and sadly they work.
Generally, the scam works like this:
The scammer uses pictures of a property they don’t own and market it on various rental listing sites.
They set the rent at a rate that they know will generate a lot of interest.
There’s no time to view the property, either the tenant pays a deposit, and potentially the first month's rent, or they lose the property.
The property is often incredibly beautiful in a great location and an absolute steal - an opportunity to good to pass up. However, in these scenarios, they’re also not real. Once the “deposit” has been transferred the scammer disappears.
How to identify a scam property?
They ask for money before you see the property
If you haven’t seen the property you don’t know if it’s real, you don’t know if it’s in the same state as the pictures, and you can’t confirm that the person you’re in contact with actually owns the property. If they ask for money or try to pressure you into paying a deposit or first month's rent before you see the property this is likely a scam.
Too good to be true
Does the listing seem too good to be true? For example, does it have a list of exciting features? Is the rent a bit lower than realistic in that area for a property like this? Ask yourself, “Is this realistic?”
Overly pushy owners
If their first response to your inquiry isn’t a time and date when you can come view the property then it very well could be a scam. If instead, the property owner starts pressuring you to move quickly, potentially threatening that you’ll lose the property unless you put down money, this is a clear red flag. They may even come up with a convincing story - such as they’re moving out of town and need to rent their property fast, or that there are a lot of other interested parties. In this scenario, unless you can organize a viewing it's best to walk away.
Often scammers operate from other countries. They may not know the specifics about renting in a particular area, or their English language and grammar skills might not be the best. This is another red flag.
Never pay anything before you or someone you trust has seen the property in real life
On rare occasions, it may not be possible to view a property before renting it. For example, you’re moving to a different city. In this scenario, it’s a good idea to research the property owner or property management company first. You could even book an Airbnb for the first month of your stay in the town instead of moving straight into a residential rental.
If the property owner is pushing for you to pay anything, either a deposit or the first month’s rent before you’ve seen the property and signed a quality lease, walk away.
Always pay through Landlord Studio
Our final tip is to operate your payments through a trusted platform like Landlord Studio. Landlord Studio’s security team does extra due diligence for any property owner or manager using our payments platform including an identity verification check. If your landlord asks you to pay via Landlord Studio then you can have faith that they really do own the property.
Scammers often ask for wire transfers as deposits or rent payments as they are irreversible. You should never pay using a wire transfer and always have confidence before sending money.
Even with this in mind though, always ensure you have seen the property yourself and signed a lease before sending any money over.
If you believe there is a fraudulent (scam) listing on Landlord Studio, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with the property address and URL.