Rental Scams?! What?
It’s unfortunate, but yes, scammers do target renters. In a rental scam, the scammer will try to get money or personal information from a potential tenant for an apartment that they are in no legal position to rent or the apartment will simply not exist. Often, the scammer will try to get money or information from the potential tenant without showing the property or prior to providing a lease.
And these rental scams are not rare.
Scammers are currently targeting Wilmington rentals.
There are rental scams posted online for the Wilmington area that steal photos and text from legitimate listings in Wilmington. Scammers have recently stolen photos from our rental listing for downtown Market Street. Please note that we always include our company information on our Craigslist postings and that our rental at Market Street has been rented.
While we have set up Google alerts to try and flag these scam listings as soon as we can, scammers can change their format, so we’re sharing ways to verify online rental listings and keep yourself safe!
What are the other red flags?
- Anyone who asks for money upfront.
If the individual is requiring you to provide a deposit or pay other fees up front prior to submitting an application or signing a lease, it is a scam. Property Managers will always have you submit an application and sign a lease before collecting your deposit or first month’s rent.
- Anyone who is looking for payment to be made a specific way.
Anyone who has particular specifications about how to deliver money, such as through a wire transfer, delivered to a PO BOX, or in cash, is suspicious. If they are asking you to pay them in a way that is hard to trace, it could very well be a scam.
- Any email address that looks suspicious.
Local rental companies and agents will not be using Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, iCloud, or phone service provider emails for business. Companies usually provide an email address with their domain (such as @dianneperryco.com), or it should be a standard scrambled .craigslist email.
- The listing does not provide contact information, or the contact information is vague.
Many rental listings will include the contact information of the company that is listing the rental. In Wilmington especially, you will usually find the company name and/or agent name, company address and a website, email, and phone number. Most companies follow the same posting format as well, so if one post looks different from the rest, it may be fake.
- Anyone who is eager to rent to you, without getting to know you.
Property managers want to verify who they are renting to and will usually run a background and credit check. In addition, most management and rental companies will also require you to submit your proof of income and rental history. If someone seems like they are just looking for money upfront, or if they only want some of your personal (and valuable!) information, be cautious.
- Or, anyone who is looking for only some of your personal information.
If there is no formal application process, be wary. You should never give out your personal information- name, address, social security number, or bank account number- unless it is through a legitimate online application form. You can also quickly check to see if the page is secured (here’s how).
- Anyone who needs you to commit immediately.
As mentioned above, the company listing the property should want you to submit an application and/or provide information necessary for a background and credit check. Even if they want to rent the listing quickly, they will take their time reviewing each applicant. If someone needs you to commit immediately, they are likely just trying to get your money quickly before the scam is discovered or flagged.
- Anyone who unavailable to show you the listing, or is available to show it to you after you provide them with personal information and/or money (such as a deposit).
Do not trust anyone who says you can go and “peek in the window” or that they can show it to you after they receive their requested funds. This is likely an excuse and stall tactic and you should be wary of anyone who does not seem to have keys or legal access to the property.If someone does show you the property, you can always call and verify their employment. Legitimate rental companies will usually provide the name of the showing agent prior to the appoint and all agents should have a business card you can ask for!
- The monthly rent seems too good to be true.
“A 4 Bedroom condo in downtown for $650! What a steal!” …If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers are just looking to make some quick money and may be advertising an amazing price to get more individuals to reply.
- The deposit or upfront fees are high.
A deposit for an apartment is almost always the same amount as one month’s rent. (i.e. If a rental property is $1200/month, the security deposit will likely be $1200 as well). However, sometimes a property manager will request a higher deposit, often called a “double deposit” or a deposit equal to two months’ rent if the approved tenant has low or no credit history and/or rental history. If someone is requesting you pay a high or double deposit, they should have a valid reason as to why they are making this requirement. It is also important to note that each state does have rules and regulations on the maximum amount of deposit that can be collected.
- You are told that you do not need a lease.
Even if you are going month to month, you should have a lease or some kind of legally binding document in place. A lease protects both you and the property manager in the event that something goes awry. It also gives claim that the property manager or landlord has the legal right to rent out the property. If someone does not want to provide you with a lease, they may not be in a legal position to rent the home or apartment.
- If you are told that you do not need a lawyer to review the lease.
While you don’t necessarily need a lawyer to review a lease in the first place, if anyone explicitly tells you that you don’t need a lawyer to look it over, that should alert you that something is wrong.
- Anyone who says they are out of the county.
“I’m currently out of the country” is one of the most common excuses among scammers. It is an easy way for you not to question why you can’t meet with them. There are a lot of great rental and property management groups in the Wilmington area, so be cautious of anyone who says they are out of the country.
What can I do to protect myself?
- ALWAYS verify that the rental and the company listing the property or apartment exist.
Property Management companies and Real Estate Groups usually provide their address and contact information on their listings and almost always include their phone number and website. It takes just a minute to perform a Google search, check a website, or call to verify a listing! Not to mention, the listing company will likely appreciate you letting them know about a fradulent post that they haven’t caught yet!
- Trust your gut.
If something makes you feel uncomfortable and doesn’t seem right, there is nothing wrong with walking away. Trust your instincts!
- Take your time with selecting a rental.
Even if you’re in a rush to move, make sure that you are comfortable with your rental and the company you are renting from. If you’re wary of the intentions of someone renting to you, make sure you take that into consideration before making a final decision.
Below we’ve included screenshots one of our verified listings as well as a screenshot of a fake listing (which has since been flagged and removed).
Here is a legitimate listing posted by our office:
We always use this format when posting our rental listings and you should ALWAYS see Dianne Perry & Company information when you hit reply. However, we are also always happy to verify a listing or provide more information!
Below, is a fake listing that uses stolen photos and text from the legitimate listing:
Yikes! While this listing uses our company name on the photos, this is not our listing. We DO NOT put our company name or logo on our listing images.
This fake listing also does not follow our standard format. Our company information and the property basics -bedrooms, bathrooms, monthly rent- should all be quickly visible.
And when you click reply, you do not see Dianne Perry information!
Any tips that we missed? Share with us on Facebook or Twitter! We’d love to hear them!