It’s summer, and your family needs to move. But finding a new place is stressful. Scammers know that people in the midst of moving don’t always have time to do the necessary research. Avoid moving scams by watching out for these latest tricks.
How the scam works:
You respond to an online rental listing that touts a beautiful home, low rent and great amenities. It looks legitimate; con artists often use real photos and descriptions stolen from other websites. The “landlord” replies to your message claiming they are out of town for work or in the hospital with a health emergency, so they can’t show you the property in person.
The scammer will then create a false sense of urgency, telling you that others are interested, so you must act immediately. They will ask for a security deposit and/or the first month’s rent to reserve the property. The scammer may claim that you can see the property through a rental agent – only after you pay the deposit. In some versions, the “landlord” will require prospective tenants to complete an application form, which asks for personal details like a Social Security number or even checking account or bank account numbers.
One renter told BBB, “I saw a house for rent on Facebook and reached out. … They sent me an application link and requested $50 per adult through CashApp. I sent $100 for 2 adults and got a confirmation link saying that they received the application. After that they requested $400 to be sent to them to hold the property. I refused since I had not met them in person or seen the house.”
No matter the details, once you send the money, the result is the same. The “landlord” will stop responding to messages and disappear. Renters reported to BBB Scam Tracker losing thousands of dollars after paying fees to hold an apartment, make a deposit, and pay the first month’s rent. Now they have lost their money and they have nowhere to live.
Ways to avoid this scam:
· Watch out for deals that are too good to be true. Scammers lure you in by promising low rents, extra amenities, and a great location. If the price seems much better than elsewhere, it may be a scam.
· Search online for similar properties. Do a quick search for the listing, scammer’s email address, or phone number. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that’s a huge red flag.
· See the property in person. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised.
· Don’t pay a stranger with cash transfer apps. Many scammers now ask for payments through peer-to-peer apps instead of wired funds or prepaid debit/gift cards. Only use these apps with people you know. It’s OK to pay a landlord you trust with Venmo, Zelle, or another P2P app, but don’t use this payment method to secure an apartment or pay a deposit.
Dick Eppstein is president of the Better Business Bureau, serving Northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan.