The apartment search can be an exhausting one. You likely spend your time looking at apartment after apartment with various rental agencies, real estate agents, landlords, and through your own online searches. After all of your hard work trying to find the perfect place, all you need is to fall victim to an apartment rental scam. Scammers know that people looking for apartments can be highly emotional and vulnerable while apartment searching and even take advantage of people who are in a time-sensitive situation and need to find an apartment as quickly as possible.
Here are some red flags to be on the lookout for on your apartment search:
They ask you to send money without offering to meet or show the apartment in person. This has happened to me before while looking at apartments on Craigslist. I have found apartments on the site that had great pictures and seemed legit. I found one that I was very interested in and after emailing back and forth with the landlord, they asked me to send money for an application fee. I loved the apartment in the pictures so much that I actually considered it but after hearing about Craigslist scams, I emailed back saying I would like to see the apartment in person first. I never got a response back. Moral of the story: Don’t pay for anything before getting a look at it with your own eyes. Don’t rely on pictures or promises form someone over email. If they don’t let you see it first, it probably doesn’t exist.
They ask you to pay too many upfront fees or a high security deposit. A security deposit is usually between a month and a month and a half’s worth of rent. If you’re asked to pay an excessive fee or they ask for your money before a lease is signed, be wary; they probably just want to take your money and run.
They seem too eager to rent the apartment. Pay attention to the landlord’s behavior. Do they really want you to rent the apartment? Do they offer to waive an application fee and security deposit? Do they not ask for any information about you regarding your credit score, background check, or employment history? All of those are standard practice when renting an apartment and if the landlord is being pushy and dismissing all of those, watch out because they could be trying to scam you.
They ask for too much personal information online. When corresponding with someone online about an apartment, make sure not to give out all of your information unless you’ve met them in person and seen the apartment and are ready to sign a lease. If they ask for your social security number or bank account number online, DO NOT give it to them. That’s true for any situation, including apartment searching.
You’re just not feeling it. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.