As an Austin renter, finding the right rental home can be challenging. That is especially true today when rental listing scams are so prevalent. To ensure you don’t get scammed, it is important to know how to spot a rental listing scam and protect yourself. The good news is that rental listing scams are often easy to spot if you know how. You can avoid falling into a rental scammer’s trap with some good information and a few strategies.
How to Spot a Scam
In a competitive rental market, it’s natural to want to find a great rental at an affordable price. The problem is that scammers know this, too. These con artists often dangle too-good-to-be-true rental deals as a lure to get you to contact them. Then, once you do, they will use many tricks to take your money while leaving you without a rental home to show for it.
Rental scammers use several different methods to accomplish their schemes. One common technique is stealing a legitimate rental listing or ads, changing contact information, and placing the altered ad on another site. Another common scam is running ads for rentals that don’t exist or aren’t for rent. They will often include beautiful pictures and a too-good-to-be-true rental rate to get you to respond. Don’t be fooled. If the photo in the ad has an MLS watermark on it, for example, chances are that the listing is fake.
Spotting these scams isn’t always easy, but there are things that you can watch for. The first red flag is generally the rental price. If it seems a little too good for the local market, it’s probably a scam. Another clue is in the rental listing itself. Rental scammers from outside the United States may post ads with poor grammar, odd wording, or other unusual features. If you see an advertisement like that, it’s better to avoid it.
If you do contact an ad that seems okay, scammers sometimes ask you to wire them money for a security deposit, application fee, or first month’s rent. They may also seem reluctant to show you the property or make odd excuses about why they can’t show it. They may even claim to be out of the country. One big red flag is if they want you to make arrangements through a relative or an “agent,” someone who is not a professional Austin property manager. All of these are common strategies of rental listing scammers, and so, if you encounter one or more, it’s best to move on.
Strategies to Protect Yourself
If you become suspicious of a rental listing, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from being scammed.
- First, do some research on the owner or the listing. At the very least, do an internet search on both. If you find the same ad with different contact or rental rate information, it’s most likely a scam.
- If that checks out, ask for a copy of the lease terms in writing and read it It should spell out all rental payments, fees, and responsibilities.
- Be careful not to give out your personal information, such as your Social Security number, until you are confident that they are who they say they are.
- Also, ensure that you have a signed lease before sending any money to the owner or landlord.
- Never send anyone money by wire transfer or send money for a rental to an overseas address. Both are clear signs of a scam, and chances are very high that you will never get that money back, even if you report the theft.
Finally, if you discover a rental listing scam, you should contact the website where the ad was posted and report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you have become the target of a scam, it’s also important to report it to your local police.
While scammers are definitely out there, the best way to avoid being a victim is by working with Real Property Management All Connect. As a professional property manager, we can inform you about upcoming listings verified through the proper channels. View our listings online if you’re looking for a great rental in Austin.
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