There are any number of ways that people try to scam prospective renters online. (For a list of some common ones, check this out.) Just a few simple precautions can save you from getting ripped off, however:
Beware of anyone who wants to rent a place sight-unseen. No one expects you to move in somewhere you’ve never laid eyes on; if you aren’t allowed to see it first, it probably doesn’t exist.
Don’t give out personal information, especially online. True, that moment will come where you have to write you SSN on a rental application so that the owner can make sure you’re not a (convicted) serial killer, or half a million in debt. But keep your financial info to yourself!
Don’t wire money to anyone. Did you read the part about not renting a place until you know it exists? Why would you pay for a castle in the sky?—although if you do find one of those, let me know.
Pay attention to the landlord’s behavior—is she being pushy? Really wanting to rent to you? Making a point of dismissing the need for a lawyer, or a lease? What about a rental application?—this is standard practice. A legitimate landlord doesn’t need you that badly, and doesn’t cut corners.
Never accept overpayment for anything. This is more often an issue for managers than tenants, but regardless, if someone sends you more money than is required and then asks for you to write a check for the difference, it’s a scam.
Beware of any renter located outside the country. There are many foreign email scams. In general, if someone is trying to rent you an American property from outside the country, well, need we say more?
Ultimately, listen to your gut. (Unless you’re a born sucker, then ask someone else.) Does it feel wrong? Another way to look at it: if it seems too good to be true, it PROBABLY IS.
Have you ever been the victim of a rental scam? Share your advice here or on Facebook!