You finally found a rental property to call home. It’s the perfect location, the pictures look amazing, and the price is much lower than you were expecting to pay. All you need to do is send the landlord a deposit and the first month’s rent to seal the deal.
STOP! Before you do that, make sure you’re not sending money for a property that doesn’t exist. Rental scams are yet another opportunity for scammers to steal money. These scams target both new and existing renters, so it’s important to know what to look for.
View this short video to learn more about rental scams.
Tips for Spotting a Rental Scam
Pictures look too good. If a picture shows a beautifully renovated rental at a price that’s well below market rate, be cautious. Glamour photos can easily be found online. Reverse search an image by right clicking.
The listing has errors. Scammers are smart, but often don’t have very good grammar. Listings that have grammatical mistakes and other formatting errors could be signs of a scam.
Pressure to sign and pay right away. A legitimate landlord or rental agent will typically show you a space before renting it. If an agent is pressing you to sign a contract or pay a deposit without seeing the property first, this is a red flag. Especially if they insist you pay with a digital payment platform like Zelle® or Venmo.
There’s no credit check. Landlords and rental companies typically will conduct a credit check to determine if a renter is creditworthy. While some places don’t require a credit check, be careful. Ensure the agent is not taking advantage of your need for housing by offering a fictitious home with lenient eligibility requirements.
Ways to Avoid Rental Scams
Always ask to tour the property. Don’t rent a place without seeing it. Schedule a time to tour the property to make sure it exists and looks like the advertisement.
Skip listings that look suspicious. Scroll past spam listings, and be skeptical of listings that are priced well below market value or contain grammatical and spelling errors.
Don’t send money in advance. You should never be charged a fee to tour a property, so turn away from any request for an upfront payment. Avoid sending any seemingly legitimate payment like a security deposit or first month’s rent without seeing the space and meeting the landlord or property manager. If the landlord comes up with a convincing story as to why they can’t meet – it’s best to wait until you can schedule a meeting, or search for another rental altogether.
Slow down and ask questions. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied or pressured. If you do, you could be playing right into the hands of a scammer. Take your time, see the property for yourself, and ask all the necessary questions to make sure this is the right space for you.
At First Financial, our goal is to help protect our members from scams and identity theft. If you have any concerns or questions about any of your First Financial accounts, please call member services at 732.312.1500 or visit one of our branches.
To learn more about scams and ways to protect yourself, visit zellepay.com/pay-it-safe.
Zelle and the Zelle related marks are wholly owned by Early Warning Services, LLC and are used herein under license.