4 Foolproof Ways to Spot a Rental Scam

Author: PeopleFinders on May 1st, 2020
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If you’re looking for a new apartment or house to rent, you’re probably focused on finding a place that will meet your specific needs. You need a place in the right area, a place at the right price, and a place that has the amenities your family needs. However, something you may not be considering is the possibility of a rental scam.

Rental scams are actually fairly common — people put up fake rental listings, try to get you to send money, and leave you hanging. How can you make sure you don’t fall for these scams?

It’s almost certainly a scam if:

1. You aren’t offered an in-person tour of the space.

2. The owner asks for money right away.

3. That money needs to be wired.

4. The leasing agreement seems non-standard.


1. The Owner Won’t Show You the Property

This is an almost sure-fire sign that the listing is a scam. You should always try to tour a rental location before you sign any paperwork or send any money. Even if it’s in another city or country, you should ask if you can do a digital “house tour” or do the paperwork through a reputable renting site.

If you’re available to tour the home or apartment, but the owner seems cagey about doing it, drop the rental. No great rental deal is worth the potential loss of money due to a scam.

2. The Owner Asks for Money Up Front

This is another extremely common method of scamming. The owner may claim a variety of reasons why you need to send money first. Maybe you need to send money for a background check or to “prove” that you’re serious about renting the place.

You should never send money, including a deposit, the first month’s rent or the last month’s rent until you’ve signed the lease. Background check fees may be legitimate. But they shouldn’t be more than about $50, and you shouldn’t send it until you’ve thoroughly vetted the listing.

3. The Owner Wants Payment by Wire or Another Insecure Payment Method

Payment by wire is another one of the most obvious signs of a scam. Especially when it comes to rental agreements, which rarely require more than a few thousand dollars up front even for genuine security deposits, you should never have to send money by wire.

Even more suspicious is if the owner asks you to send payment over peer-to-peer payment sites or gift card. You should only send money through genuine payment methods such as cashier’s check, money order, cash or check, and only after you’ve toured the house in person and signed a lease.

4. There’s No Lease or a Very Suspicious Lease

A lease protects both you and the owner of the location, ensuring the terms of the stay are fully laid out in advance. Even if you’re renting month-to-month, you should still have a lease, because otherwise, you have no formal agreements regarding the rental.

If the owner does provide you with a lease, read it thoroughly. Does the lease go over payment due dates, utility requirements, criminal requirements, notification to leave, and what happens after the lease expires? If not, stop and talk to a realtor or lawyer before moving forward.

How to Check for Scams Under the Surface

Even if you don’t spot any of these problems, you still might be facing a rental scam. Many people fall for rental scams every day, and not all of them are especially easy to discover. How do you make sure you’re only contacting genuine rental listings, and you’re not potentially falling for a well-made scam? One of the most effective tools you can use to try and vet rental listings is with PeopleFinders.

You don’t have to take someone’s word for whether or not they own a property that’s up for sale. Instead, you can take a property address and perform an address lookup to attempt to learn more about the property, including information about the person who owns it. From there, you can match up the address information to any information you have from the listing. If you see any discrepancies, avoid the listing — it might be a scam.


Renting has enough pitfalls even when it’s done legitimately — some rental companies are less scrupulous than others, after all. However, nothing’s worse than realizing that you’ve been scammed out of hundreds of dollars and don’t even have an apartment to show for it.

To avoid that unfortunate circumstance, keep these four tips in mind. And know that you can always use PeopleFinders to try and check out the property records for rental listings up front.

Image attribution: takasu – stock.adobe.com

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Categorized in: Scams