Looking for your next apartment, condo or house rental can be a time-consuming process, and it may feel as though you'll never find the right place at the right price. Scammers know this feeling and can use it to exploit consumers. Consumers need to take their time and do their homework before signing a lease.
Housing rental scams commonly lure consumers with beautiful pictures, great amenities and low rent. They advertise a sense of urgency, pressuring would-be renters to put down a security deposit right away, even as the owner — that is, scammer — claims to be out of town and unable to show the property. In reality, the apartment is already rented or doesn't exist, leaving the victim out hundreds of dollars and potentially without a home.
The same tactics may be applied to vacation rentals, as the proliferation of vacation rental and home-sharing websites makes it easy for travelers and landlords to handle everything online. Travelers who jumped on a lodging steal online, having been told that it was sure to book quickly, may arrive to find that the rental is unavailable or doesn't exist.
Nationally, Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker received about 450 reports of rental scams in 2018. The median financial loss reported by consumers was $1,000, making this a potentially costly fraud.
Common red flags in an apartment rental scam include:
BBB recommends the following tips when searching for housing rentals:
Report any rental scams you come across to BBB Scam Tracker. For other assistance, go to bbb.org or call 573-886-8965.
Michelle Gleba is the Mid-Missouri regional director for Better Business Bureau.