When you need a home for rent, the first thing you find is the relevant ads. You can find plenty of them in local newspapers and online. But the difficult thing is to differentiate between real rental ads and scam advertisements. It is hard to differentiate the both, particularly if you are a first-time renter. Many people think that scams must be easy to find, but it is not the case. Scammers are advertising just like the real landlords, so experienced renters can also find it difficult to spot.
Read the ad description carefully.
Many landlords do not give due importance to ad description. However, reading the ad can give you a hit about its originality. Sometimes descriptions are vague and do not describe the rental unit properly. You cannot find any basic details about the house. There can be two reasons for that: the landlord is ignorant and careless, or the ad is just a scam. Other than insufficient details, you will find mistakes like poor grammar and punctuation, which indicate something fishy. However, based on a few mistakes, you cannot say that the ad is a scam with certainty.
Looking at the listing closely, you can find ads with similar descriptions. You can easily tell that these descriptions are not original but rather copied from other ads. Read the ad carefully and see if it has details about utilities and area. If the location of the house and other details are missing, it means the ad can be a scam. The advertiser doesn't know the area, and he wants to target the renters who are not from this area.
If an address is given in the ad, find the same address and see if the same house is listed for rent or sale on any other website. Most probably, you will find it for sale. It means scammers took the images and details of the house and created an ad for rent. You can contact the owner and ask him if he is selling the house or renting it out to confirm it further. If the owner has no idea about the renting ad, you have just survived a scam.
Compare features of the house and rental price.
The monthly rent of residential units varies from area to area. It also depends on the size of the house and the utilities it offers. You must have information about the standard rental price for the unit you are looking for. If you see an ad with all the features that anyone can ask for, but the rental price is very low, it can be a red flag. Now you need to research and see why it's available at such a low price.
You can also use images of the house to find out about scams. Most of the scam ads have no pictures of the house. On the other hand, older adults find it very difficult to take photos and add them to ads, so sometimes without photos, ads can be legitimate as well. If the photo has a watermark on it, it can be alarming. Scammers use photos from other websites, and you can easily find them on the internet. No matter whether you find photos or not, search a few related websites if you see them somewhere else.
Visit the house before making a deal.
If the ad seems fine and you are satisfied, the next step is to visit the house. Visit the house before paying money or finalizing the deal. If someone claims that he is the landlord and you can close the deal, don't do it without seeing the unit.
Usually, scammers allow their victims to drive by or walk by only. Make sure you visit the place and inspect the house from inside too. Scammers have no association with the house, and they close the deal just outside the house.
If you are forced to sign the lease immediately.
Usually, scammers force people to sign deals immediately. They don't ask for references and don't do any screening about your credit history or criminal background. A real landlord closed a deal without screening. He may ask you about references and other details, and if he does not, it means he is not the landlord.
Avoid paying any security deposit or signing the deal until you inspect the property inside out. Meet the landlord and try to know his background. If you are satisfied, read the lease document carefully. Don't wire transfer your money; that is also a clear scam sign. If you are meeting the person and they have a proper office, you can trust him. On the other hand, email can be a scam if the email is the only form of communication.
How can you report a scam?
It is very important to report scams to save others from such people. You can report the ad on the platform where you have found it. You can also contact local authorities for action. You can take the screenshot of your communication with the scammer and use it as a proof. You can take the case to the small claims court if you have already paid some money.
These are just a few simple ways that can help you to avoid scams in rental real estate. A good way to avoid scams is to use referrals. You can ask your friends or family if they know a landlord. It will help you to avoid scams. Moreover, if you have seen the house, you can ask neighbors about the landlord and meet him personally.
Moreover, do every kind of search before you close the deal. Wire transfer is not an option for money transfer; use bank transfer or cash payment, but don't forget to take the receipt. Getting home on rent is difficult, but you can live in peace for many years if you get a good one. So, make some effort to save your money and have a peaceful life ahead.