Tenant Tips: Protecting Yourself From Listing Fraud
Written by Jonas Bordo
Planning a move this year? Wonderful! If you’re like the majority of American renters you’re planning to move sometime between May and August of this year. That means you’re getting ready to start searching (or have already been searching in more competitive markets), and I want to talk about a concerning trend in the rental market. Listing fraud.
Listing fraud is when scammers steal vacancy pictures/information in order to steal from vulnerable renters. These fake listings might ask for vulnerable information before showing the property to “verify your identity.” They might give explanations why they can’t show you the property beforehand or why they only accept online money wires. Therefore, it is important for you to learn to protect yourself.
One of the reasons I love working for Dwellsy is because they understand the threat to you as a renter and are actively seeking solutions. They recognize the issue and are attempting to face it head-on through two-factor authentication methods and active investigations into fraudulent listings. Even so, it’s important for you to take steps to protect yourself! Here are my top four suggestions for recognizing and avoiding scam listings.
Use Respected Sites To Search For Vacancies
I can’t say this enough, the listing’s location matters! Avoid sites that allow just anyone to post. Using sites like Dwellsy should put you at ease because listing authentication is not just a core tenant of Dwellsy’s mission, it’s DIRECTLY CODED into the platform. Dwellsy makes anyone listing properties go through a multi-step authentication process in order to minimize fraudulent listings.
Compare Listings For Price
A major indication that a listing is fraudulent is if it’s way below market value. For example, if all 3 bedroom / 2 bathroom houses in the area are listed at $1500 and the one you’re viewing is under $1k, BE WARY. This is a scammer strategy that targets residents desperate for more affordable housing. I don’t want to say there aren't any deals out there! However, I urge you to take caution, especially if these listings ask for anything out of the norm.
Tour Properties In Person WITH a Leasing Agent BEFORE You Sign A Lease or Send A Security Deposit
There is no reason why you can’t see a listing in person. THERE IS NO REASON YOU CAN’T SEE A LISTING IN PERSON! You should be able to tour a listing WITH an agent before being expected to sign a lease or send over a security deposit. If the company is saying something different, THAT IS A RED FLAG. Never send money without touring a property and putting at least one face to the company name.
Do Not Pay First Month’s Rent Until You’re Exchanging For Keys
After touring a property it is common to sign a lease and pay a security deposit to hold your spot at the property. You should NOT pay the first month’s rent UNTIL the property is vacant and you’ve scheduled a time to get the keys. If you’re pressured to pay the security deposit and rent months in advance, that is a red flag. Scammers often ask you to pay large sums in advance, giving them ample time to run away with your money. Don't fall victim to rental fraud, if you're weary about a listing, do your research.
I hope this helps! Please let me know if there are some other strategies you have to avoid scams online!
Written by Deandra McDonald