It’s never a good idea to wire money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen.
In your search for an apartment or vacation rental, you find a great prospect at a great price. It can be yours if you wire money — for an application fee, security deposit or the first month’s rent. The owners might say they’re out of the country. But they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or “agent” working on their behalf.
Once you’ve wired the money, it’s gone. Then you learn there is no rental. A scammer hijacked a legitimate rental listing by changing the contact information and placing the altered ad on other sites. Or there never was a rental. A scammer made up a listing for a place that isn’t for rent or doesn’t exist, using a below-market price to lure you in.
If you’re the one with a rental property, watch out for the reverse: a potential renter who says she wants to cancel her deposit and asks you to wire the money back — before you realize the check is a fake.
What You Can Do
There’s never a good reason to wire money to cover a security deposit, an application fee or a first month’s rent.
- If you can’t visit the rental yourself, ask someone you trust to see it for you.
- Be skeptical of landlords who say they’re out of the country; don’t wire money to someone overseas.
- Do a search to see if the same listing is listed elsewhere with a different name or phone number.
If you find yourself the target of a rental scam, report it to your local law enforcement and also to the Federal Trade Commission. Contact the website where the ad was posted, as well.
Report Online Scams
If you believe you’ve responded to an online scam, file a complaint with:
- The Federal Trade Commission.
- The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Your state attorney general.