How to Avoid Rental Scams

Internet fraud is everywhere, and one of the most popular targets in recent years has been the rental industry.  If you are a new or first time renter, or an inexperienced landlord, you need to learn about this scourge of our industry.  There are dozens of scams directed at tenants and inexperienced landlords from credit check scams to fake checks to advertising rentals that don’t exist.  Most of these scams take place on craigslist, but every popular site is a target.  In this post we will teach you how to identify the most common scams, and how to avoid becoming a victim.

Fake Check Scam.  A potential tenant will contact a landlord showing interest in one of their properties.  They will offer to rent the property sight unseen, and send a cashier’s check to the landlord for an amount greater than is owed.  The potential tenant will say that the check is from their company or some other entity, and that they had to cut one check for a number of reasons.  They will ask you to wire them the difference and you will never see them again.  The check was fake, and with today’s printing technology even the bank may not notice until they try to run it.  You will of course be asked to pay the bank back, but your money will be gone forever.  You can find more information on this scam here.  If you are victim of this scam you can report it to

Red Flags.

-The tenant wants to send a certified check for more than they owe you.

-The tenant is usually too good to be true.  They are generally very highly paid doctors or business people that need something immediately.

-They usually come from a foreign country like England, or somewhere in Africa.

-They urgently need you to wire them the money.

-They refuse to talk to you on the phone and will deal only via email.

-They insist on giving you the funds over the weekend when banks are closed.

Avoiding the Scam.  This scam can be easily avoided by not accepting funds above and beyond what is owed, and by not wiring any funds that are not verified by the bank for any reason.  Call the issuing bank and verify funds.  Make sure you find the banks number on your own, not from the person providing the check.  When possible deal in person with anyone looking to rent any of your properties.

Credit Check/Deposit Scam.  A person will pose as a landlord and ask you to fill out an application and give them a deposit.  They will take your deposit money, and use your personal information to commit identity theft.  This scam is almost always via email, but can also happen in person.

Red Flags.

-The landlord only wants to deal with you via email, and refuses to talk to you on the phone.

-If they are willing to meet you it will be somewhere other than their office or the property.

-They ask for an application or deposit before showing you the property.

Avoiding the Scam.  Know who you are dealing with and ask for ID.  Check the internet for the name of the property manager, or check public records to find out who owns the property.  Always deal locally and in person.

Fake, or Cheap Property Scam.  A person will place an ad for a fake property, or will advertise an actual property from a legitimate source at a greatly reduced rate.  They will ask for rent, deposit, application.  When you get to the property, or try to move in, you are out of luck.

Red Flags.

-Very cheap rent for the type of property and size of the house or apartment.

-The person only wants to deal via email.

-The person may not ask for an application

-The property appears on a different site for more money.

Avoiding the Scam.  I know your Momma told you, “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.”  There are not many 5 Bedroom homes in the best neighborhoods of any city for $800/month.  Again, deal locally and in person.  Do not rent a property until you have seen it and verified the transaction.

The vast majority of listings, and landlords on the internet are legitimate and real.  However, there are a lot of bad people out there that would like to separate you from your money in a dishonest fashion.  In this post are three of the most common scams for rentals.  There are dozens more, and many more are being thought of right now.  To avoid 99% of these scams follow these rules:

  1. We very strongly discourage anyone from renting from a landlord, or renting to a renter “Sight Unseen.”  Seeing the property and meeting the person that you will be dealing with is a good idea anyway, and will eliminate the vast majority of scams.
  2. Don’t send any money to someone you have not verified.  Do not send any money via Western Union or any other similar service.
  3. Do not send or give anyone money until you or someone you know has seen the property in person and verified it is a genuine offering.
  4. Do not accept cashiers checks for amounts greater than what is owed.
  5. Do your own research to verify who you are dealing with.  Do not take their word for it.
  6. Research online for that property’s address and see if you find multiple listings with different information.
  7. Sign up for Google Alerts for the property address and see if you find conflicting information.
  8. If something is too good to be true, it is.  If you have done your research on market prices, you will immediately suspect deals that are too good to be true.

Hope this helps you avoid some of the pitfalls of owning or renting property.  Thanks for visiting!

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4 Responses to How to Avoid Rental Scams

  1. drumat5280 says:

    I have a blacklist of all the scammers that use my site. I share it with all my competitors if you want the XML feed. I just added a new one to the DB just a few hours ago.

  2. misha says:

    here is a recent one : he is in africa on project assignment he is an engineer and he preapproved me just like that after I responded to his ad, and he has no address no apt number and he wants to sent keys in the mail to rent place after I said I will see it first then give you an identify form application he sent thru email he has the ads running all over different cities and this site when I reported him with all my corresponding email copies,, they still refuse to take down the ads maybe they are getting paid a few dollars a day and they do not care about people getting scamed.

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