The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about a rental scam that could ruin your big move to a better place.

How it works

You head online looking for a new apartment—someplace nice, reasonably priced, and with great amenities. Based on the photos, you find the perfect one and contact the owner.  The “owner/landlord” of the property replies and explains they’re out of town so they can’t give you a tour before you rent. In another variation of the scam, the property owner has been “transferred” suddenly for work and isn’t available to do a showing.

Although the landlord isn’t around, they pressure you to commit to the rental. They claim that other people are also looking at the property and that you’d better act fast or you’ll miss out. To reserve the unit, you must give them a security deposit and/or the first month’s rent. Once you pay the money, you never hear from the owner/landlord again.

Other twists on this this scam

After “property owner” lays on the pressure, they may tell you that:

  • You can see the property through a rental agent as long as you pay a deposit
  • You have to fill out an application form that requests you divulge lots of information, including your social security number

How to steer clear

The Better Business Bureau says:

  • Watch out for deals that are too good. If you see a rental listed that’s cheap, with amenities, and in a great location—be suspicious.
  • Search online for similar properties. Google is your friend. Look up the landlord/owner’s email, address, or phone number. If you find the ad listed in other cities, it’s a huge red flag.
  • See the property in person. Any legit rental will show you the property before demanding money. If they won’t show you without it, it’s a sign it could be a scam.



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