How to Avoid an Online Rental Scam

Are you a trusting person? Do you believe that people and companies really do have your best interests at heart? While this might represent an ideal world, that’s hardly the world in which we live. There really are people out there who will do whatever they can to con you out of your hard earned money. They are willing to steal, lie, and cheat to get what they want. Of course, there are plenty of good people and businesses out there as well. You simply need to take steps to make sure that you do not become the victim of any type of con, such as a rental scam for your short term housing.

Types of Rental Scams

Each year, the Federal Trade Commission receives thousands of complaints regarding rentals that people applied for and rented over the web. Some of the victims lost their money by wiring it to thieves who were purporting to be the owners of the property. In other cases, people rented through fraudulent online sites that masqueraded as legitimate websites. Many people lost thousands of dollars through these short term housing schemes, which seem to be on the rise.

As more and more people are traveling for business and for pleasure, thieves are seeing an opportunity. They prey on people who are looking for good deals, promising that they have the “perfect property” at a great price. Let’s examine some of the steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of thieves running short term housing scams.

Use a Credit Card to Make the Payment

One of the mistakes that many renters make when they are choosing their short term housing is paying for it with cash. There’s no way to track what happens with cash, and this means the money is gone for good. If you pay with a credit card, you have protection for your purchases. If someone tries to con you out of money, you can contact the credit card company to cancel the purchase. Most thieves will want to work with cash/checks/money orders and the like.

Search for the Owner and Property Manager Online

You don’t know the person who is renting the furnished apartments, but you can change that. Look up the owner online, as well as any property manager that might be claiming to represent the property. You can check to see if the owner and the property manager match up or if anything seems out of place. If it does seem odd, take the time to check into the county or the parish records to find the actual owner. You can then contact the owner to make sure that he or she is actually renting out the property.

In addition, look to see if you can find any complaints against the property owner or the management company online. If a number of other renters have bad things to say about their experience, you may want to choose a different company.

Review the Rental Contracts

Review every aspect of the rental contract to see if anything seems strange or that might indicate a con. This includes any odd language, or language that doesn’t seem like it fits into a contract. Things such as misspellings are generally a dead giveaway. However, just because a contract looks legitimate, it does not mean that it’s a safe option for short term housing. Often, thieves will copy contracts from the web to make them seem legitimate.

Compare Rental Rates

Does it appear as though you are getting a fantastic deal on your furnished apartment? If the deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is a scam. Thieves know that people are always looking for great deals, and they try to entice them with those unbelievable rates. Take the time to compare the price of your potential rental with other comparable rentals in the area. It should fall in line with those. If it is too low, proceed with caution. Better yet, don’t proceed at all.

Be Wary of People Who Contact You

Con artists use phishing techniques to try to get information out of you regarding your account numbers, credit info, SSN, and more. Never give out any of this information until you are certain that you are working with a legitimate owner or property management company.

Always Report Fraud

If you are a victim of fraud, or if you believe someone was trying to defraud you with their short term housing deal, you should report it. Speak with the local police and be sure to contact the BBB and the FTC.

Take Nothing at Face Value

Do not believe everything you see. Always take the time to research your potential rental and the company or owner who is offering it. It is better to be safe rather than sorry. In today’s world, you simply can’t be too careful.