When looking for a rental apartment it is easy to get duped by fraudulent listings. They are plentiful and some are very convincing. Here are red flags that you should look for:
1. Unusually low price
When you are looking for a one-bedroom apartment in the $1,500 range and you suddenly find one listed at $900 you can be fairly sure this is a scam. Scammers often list apartments at unrealistically low prices so that they will get a large number of responses and therefore a large group of people that they can scam. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
A good indication would be if apartment features match the price point. If the place is much smaller than typical, with old appliances, and far from the subway then it’s possible the price tag is legitimate. If they are boasting an elevator building with top of the line amenities then it’s a scam.
2. Poorly written ads
Another telltale sign of a rental scam is an ad that is grammatically incorrect. A legitimate real estate agent would double check typos and make sure their ad represents them well. Many scammers operate from over seas and are not proficient in English. Don’t trust ads that look like this.
3. Landlords that are out of the country
It is very typical for a scammer to claim that they are simply an absentee landlord who lives out of the country. If this were true they would have a real estate agent handling their property for them. It’s a bad sign when a landlord claims to not be able to meet you in person, for any reason. This usually leads to them asking you to send them money for the deposit, which leads us to our next point…
4. If you are asked to wire money, don’t
No legitimate real estate agent or landlord will ever ask you to wire him money, before or after seeing the apartment in question. It may seem like an obvious point to never send anyone money before seeing the unit but even after you have seen it, this is still unsafe. The only safe way to transfer money in a real estate transaction is by certified bank check.
Additionally, if you are asked to lay out an unusually large amount of money to hold the apartment, then it’s probably a scam. At most you will be asked for first and last months’ rent and a security deposit. This should be equal to the monthly rent times three. If the apartment is $1,500 a month and they ask you to lay out $7,000, this is too much and should indicate to you that something isn’t right.
5. Too much OR too little interest in your credentials
When applying for an apartment the landlord will want to make sure that you have the means to pay rent responsibly. This is normal, however the stage at which they ask for this information can raise red flags. If they ask you for your social security number for the purposes of doing a background check before you’ve seen the apartment or made sure the lease is legitimate, then it’s a scam. They are trying to steal your identity under the guise of needing information for the lease.
Alternately if a landlord has no interest in your credit score or background check and wants to go straight to discussing the deposit you will hand him then it’s safe to say you are not really being rented an apartment. If you were, they would be ensuring that you could pay them monthly. They are only interested in getting your initial money and then disappearing.
Use these signs to safe guard yourself while on your apartment hunt. Google agents’ names and credentials before signing anything. Make sure their picture matches the person you meet. Trust your gut instincts. If anything seems fishy about the situation, back out. There will always be another apartment.