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How to Protect Yourself from Rental Scams

Rental scam warning signs

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it almost definitely is.
    Look for advertised prices well below the rest of the market, the promise of water views, full furnishings and any other combination of benefits for an impossible cheap rate.
  • The landlord is overseas.
    This is an immediate a red flag. Though it may on occasion be true, it should be treated as suspect for safety’s sake.
  • You’re asked to hand over money before anything else happens.
    If you’re asked for a viewing fee, a holding fee to secure a property, or any other kind of upfront fee (usually in the form of an electronic transfer), stop immediately. This isn’t standard practice and is deeply suspect.
  • You’re being offered lots of excuses as to why you can’t view the property.
    Just like that landlord who is overseas, something doesn’t add up. You should be able to go through all the usual channels without hinderance.
  • There’s something off about the photos in the listing.
    They may be low quality images (blurry, pixellated, or only one distant shot). They may be stock images or taken from other websites. If you think you’ve seen a picture before, trust your instincts and run an image search on Google. Sometimes pictures show outdoor environments that don’t match up with the cities they’re advertised in (palm trees where there should be skyscrapers). Look very closely.
  • Text within images.
    If an image has text superimposed, or is nothing but text itself (such as an email address), raise that red flag again. This is highly unusual and very suspect.
  • The words in the ad may be clumsily composed and sound unprofessional.
    While agents can occasionally be accused of exaggerating, they know how to describe a property well, and have a certain style of writing. A fake listing looks and feels different.
  • Look for repetition elsewhere.
    Cut and paste the content of the listing (including the address and any contact details) into a search engine. If it’s a popular scam, you’ll likely find it elsewhere. It may be mentioned on blogs or amateur scam watch sites (you should always check with official sources like SCAMwatch as well).

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