Rental scams happen when either a property owner or potential tenant misrepresents themselves. Rental scams also misrepresent the terms and availability of a rental property. Fake ads and fake responses to rental ads can hurt both tenants and property owners.
Scams targeting renters
If you're searching for rental properties, it's important to learn about rental scams.
Report scams targeting renters
Report a rental scam to your state consumer protection or local law enforcement.
If you found the rental ad online, report the scam to the website where it was posted. Also, file a report with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.
How to protect yourself from scams targeting renters
Be suspicious that the property or transaction could be a scam if:
The advertised price is much lower than that of similar properties.
Ads for the property have grammatical and spelling errors, or overuse capital letters.
The ad uses uncommon spellings of words, like "favour" instead of "favor."
You can only work with an agent. The agent says that the owner is too busy, out of the country, or otherwise unavailable to handle the rental.
The owner or agent requires you to sign the lease before you see the rental property.
The owner or agent isn't able to let you enter the home or apartment or charges you a fee to view it.
The owner or agent uses high-pressure sales tactics. They may urge you to rent quickly before someone else gets the property.
Learn the basics of how rental listing scams work.
Get the terms of your rental in writing, including fees, rent, and maintenance.
Get a copy of the lease, signed by both you and the property owner/manager.
Do a search on the owner, real estate management company, and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
Visit real estate websites. See if the home you want to rent is also listed in another city. A scammer could have copied the photo or description of another rental to use in their ad.
Don’t wire money as a deposit or payment for the first and last month's rent. Wiring money is the same as giving cash; you can't get a refund, even if you find out the offer was a fraud.
Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics.
Don’t pay a security deposit, fee, or first month’s rent before you’ve signed a lease.
Don’t rent a property that you are unable to see before signing the agreement.
Don’t send money for a rental overseas.
Don’t give your personal information or Social Security number to a property owner without verifying their identity.
Scams targeting rental property owners
If you're offering a property for lease, it's important to be aware of renter's scams.
Report scams targeting property owners
If you feel that you’re the victim of an renter’s scam involving the internet, report it to the FBI.
Contact your state attorney general’s office. The office may explain your legal rights as a landlord. Also ask how to file a complaint against a renter or potential renter.
How to protect yourself from scams targeting property owners
Search your renter’s name and email address to see if others have flagged them as a scammer.
Consider using a tenant background check, also known as a consumer report.
Learn more from the Federal Trade Commission about legal background checks.
Before renting your property, meet the prospective tenant or the person who will pay the rent.
Conduct an image search of your property. An imposter may use images of your property to create their own listings as part of a scam.
Request each renter’s personal references and follow up with those individuals.
Carefully verify your renter’s income.
Don’t accept overpayment for rental properties.
If you receive a check that’s for more than the specified amount, return it. Do not deposit it.
Don’t rent or sell to a would-be tenant or buyer sight unseen.
Don’t accept a cashier’s check from your potential tenant if he or she is out of the country.
Don’t fall for an unexplained urgency to rent the property.