Although the internet has made finding a place to live in much easier, it’s also made it easier to get scammed. From stolen deposit fees to copied listings, there are plenty of ways to get cheated out of a rental property. The following are the most common rental scams to look out for and how to protect yourself from them.
Money transfer fraud
This scam happens once you’ve expressed your serious interest in renting the property. You’ll soon receive a message containing the rental contract with the instructions to transfer money — under the guise of a deposit fee or a reservation fee — to a bank account. The account and the email will most likely belong to thieves who have hacked the information regarding the rental unit and are only out to take your money.
Reputable letting agents will never ask you to do such a thing, and will most likely have you sign the rental contract and go over the payment process with you in person. Avoid sending any money over until you’ve verified that the bank details belong to the person who actually showed you the property.
Copy-pasted listing details
This particular scam involves people copying the details of a legitimate property listing, creating a new listing and pasting those details in the post, and then changing the contact information. Once someone expresses interest, they’ll charge curious clients a fee just to view the property.
When browsing through property listings online, make sure to do your due diligence to see if the post is legitimate. Perform a quick Google search on the contact information included in the listing to see if any reputable agents turn up. Viewing properties also shouldn’t cost anything, so you should never be willing to pay a fee just to tour a property.
Overcharging for a background check
Scammers will ask you for an expensive fee to pay for your background check. While it’s true that landlords require you to pay for a background check before you can officially rent the property, this usually only costs around £30 to £60. Anything more than that amount should tip you off to a scam.
Vacant home fraud
When the owner of a property is away traveling, scammers will break into the vacant property, change the locks, and let the property out to unsuspecting renters. They’ll usually take a deposit fee and the first month’s rent — or in some cases, the first several months’ worth of rent — from you before you can move in. You’ll only find out about the scam once the owner comes back from their travels to find you living in their property.
Make sure you look up the agent and landlord you’ll be dealing with to see if they’re legitimate. You can also verify the documents of the property to see who it really belongs to. It’s also a good idea to ask for proof that they are who they say they are. If an agent is showing the property, you can ask for documentation that states that they’re doing so on behalf of the owner.
These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are more scams that you need to be wary of when renting a property out. The best way to keep yourself safe is to do your homework about the people showing you the property and ensure that you aren’t giving away money to just anyone.