Home > Identity Theft > How to Avoid Housing Rental Scams

Comments 4 Comments

For most of us, the largest chunk of our income goes to paying for a roof over our heads. Whether you are renting or buying, you want to make sure you aren’t being taken advantage of. If you are a renter, there are some popular scams you need to watch out for.

Situations to Avoid

Illegal subleases are actually fairly common, especially in urban areas with a shortage of rental properties, like New York. A sublease is when you lease an apartment from a renter. An illegal sublease is when this isn’t allowed and is done anyway. Tenants of illegal subleases can be evicted or fined.

You also want to watch out for people who pose as legitimate landlords or agents and demand money before you sign a lease. They take the money, and you still don’t have a rental. Legitimate landlords and rental agents do not ask for security deposits before a lease is ready to be signed.

There have been reports of a rental scam similar to those “Nigerian Prince” email scams. These thieves claim to live abroad and own property in the United States. They request money to be sent or wired to them.

Identity thieves pretend to be landlords or rental agents with the goal of stealing your identity. You do not need to give your Social Security number to simply look at an apartment. Becoming an identity theft victim can do major damage to your credit.

How to Spot a Scam

Often scammers give signs in the very first contact that they are not to be trusted. Pay attention to clues and proceed with caution. When communicating with potential landlords via email (in response to Craigslist ads or other real estate classified ads) watch out for generic greetings to Sir or Madam.

Also be wary of emails full of misspellings – these communications are business dealings and should be professional. Sometimes you may need to rent a home without seeing it (if, for example, you are being relocated for work on a short time frame) but avoid dealing with people who pressure you to sign without seeing a home before you provide money.

Take Action

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. In places like New York, where real estate goes quickly, you may feel pressured to act fast, but this is a big decision. If you feel unnecessary stress from one party, consider it a red flag.

Do research – check property records to see who actually owns the building you are thinking of moving into. Check to see if this information matches what you are being provided. If it’s not, ask why. Maybe there’s a logic explantion or maybe you are saving yourself from being scammed.

Try not to be too enthusiastic. If you appear too eager, you open yourself up to not getting the best deal for your money.

Along those lines, be wary of anyone who says you don’t need to sign a lease. A lease offers legal protection to you and the landlord for this business transaction.

Choosing a home isn’t easy. Don’t let your emotions cloud the fact that this is ultimately a business decision. You are paying for something and want to make sure you get what you pay for.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • Jackie Doornik

    I am a California Realtor and this SCAM has been posted on Trulia. DO NOT SEND ANY MONEY. Hello,
    Thanks for your interest and inquiries about my house. Yes the house
    is still available for rent and we are looking for a responsible
    person/family to occupy and maintain the house now that we are not
    around. My wife and i just traveled to West Africa for a program called
    (UNDP), the program is taking place in three major countries in Europe,
    Africa, UK . We will be away for 4 to 5 years or more that is why I
    have made up my mind to put up my house for rent to whom ever that will
    take good care of it.
    Also how long do you intend to stay? How soon do you intend to move in?

    Utilities included in monthly rent
    FEATURES : Laundry, Electric Range, Electric Heat, Master Bedroom,
    Playground, Car Park.AMENITIES: Air Conditioning, Patio/Party Deck,
    Cable TV, Ceiling Fans, 24 hours Internet service, Dishwasher, Firepit,
    Garbage Disposal, Microwave, security alarm, Pets Friendly,
    Refrigerator, Washer / Dryer.

    Number of bedrooms:3
    Number of bathrooms:3

    Rental price: $700 per month and security Deposit is $700 (Security
    Deposits Refundable) .

    House Address: 18135 Lakeview Dr, Victorville, CA 92395

    Pets Welcome

    1)Your Full Name________________________
    2)Current Address_______________________ ______
    3)Phone Number (________)Best time to reach you ?
    6) Zip______________
    7)Are you married______________________
    8)Do you have Kids__________
    9)Do you have a pet______________
    10)Do you have a car______________________
    12)How many people will be living in the house___________
    13)Reasons for Leaving present home_________________
    14)How long lease are you looking for______________
    15)How soon do you intend moving in________________
    16)Date of Birth________________
    17)Numbers of Cars________________
    18)A picture of occupant________________
    19)How soon you make the payment________________
    20)How soon do you want to receive the keys/documents________________
    ============================== ============== =========
    Application Comment
    ============================== ============== =========

    Thanks And God Bless

    Todd Mark & Family

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Very interesting. Thanks for sharing that.

  • http://www.laffey.com/ Laffey Fine Homes

    It can sometimes be difficult to know what is legitimate or not. Since real estate involves money, swindlers won’t stop to seize every opportunity they can in cheating would-be buyers or renters. Working with a reputable real estate agent is one way to ensure you will be on the right path.

  • Guest

    Recognizing common real
    estate scams and tricks can prevent you from falling into a victim. It can sometimes be difficult to know what is
    legitimate or not. Since real estate involves money, swindlers won’t stop to
    seize every opportunity they can in cheating would-be buyers or renters.
    Working with a reputable real estate agent is one way to ensure you will be on
    the right path.

  • Pingback: How to Avoid Housing Rental Scams - - realtor.com()

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team