4 steps to Avoid a Rental Scam

Written by on January 3, 2012 in Money - No comments | Print this page

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contemporary-apartmentMost people look inside a house or apartment before renting it. If you already live near the apartment you wish to rent then this is a no brainer. Sometimes, like when moving from somewhere distant, renting a house is not that simple.

You may need to hurry because you are moving soon and you don’t have anywhere else to stay when you get to the new town or city. If this is the case then you are going to be more susceptible to rent scammers. Luckily there are a few steps you can follow to avoid falling prey to their scams.

Step 1. Make sure the place actually exists

It may seem absurd to you that someone would try to advertise and rent out an apartment that doesn’t even exist. As absurd as it sounds, it actually happens. Imagine showing up at your new address in a new city, state or even country, expecting to have a place to stay, but instead of finding your apartment, you find an office building or a shoe store or something else that is definitely not an apartment.

One way that you can make sure that the apartment exists is by using Google street view. This will allow you to compare the photos posted on the listing with what it actually looks like without having to trust the renter.

Step 2. Search online for the renter’s information

When you’re interested in an apartment, you should become familiar with the landlord. A simple internet search can help you better understand what you’re getting into. Things you want to look for include name, email address, phone number and any other bit of information you may have about him. If the renter is the legitimate owner then he probably has other listings elsewhere.

You will probably pull up a facebook, twitter or some other social media account as well. The more you can find from a variety of different sites the better. You can also search the rental address and look for the same thing. If the property is indeed a rental it will probably pop up on other housing sites.

Step 3. Find a realtor or a broker

If you still do not feel confident about renting an apartment online then you can use a professional. This does not happen everywhere but in many cities real estate brokers also handle rentals. Of course this will require you to pay a commission but you will be 100% confident that you are not being scammed.

To be completely confident, however, you need to do the same kind of investigation that you did in step 2. Make sure that the broker or realtor does not use a web-based email address (like a yahoo or gmail account) because a reputable business will have its own server and email address.

Step 4. Never wire or transfer money

The only people that use wire transfers to conduct business are Nigerian princes and foreign lottery officials. If someone asks you to pay a deposit or the first and last month’s rent via a wire transfer do not trust them. This cannot be overstated.

You should also be wary of cashier’s checks, personal checks or money orders. Any company that is still using these methods of payment is stuck in a business model from the 1950’s and you probably don’t want to do business with them anyway.

This is a guest post.  Robert Cordray is a freelance writer and expert in business and finances. He has received many accolades for his work in teaching alternative dispute resolution.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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