Tips to Avoid Lease Fraud
As the new school year approaches, many are looking to find the perfect rental unit. Please be mindful of the potential for scams and fraud relating to leasing.
A good source for leasing information is Penn’s Off-Campus Services. They provide great guidance on what to look out for here: https://offcampushousing.upenn.edu/avoid-scams-and-fraud
The FTC has offered the following guidance on how to identify when a potential landlord may be attempting a scam:
Watch for Signs of a Scam
Being savvy when you’re in search of a rental is well worth the effort. Here are some signs you may be dealing with a scam:
-They tell you to wire money
This is the surest sign of a scam. There’s never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, first month’s rent, or vacation rental fee. That’s true even if they send you a contract first. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
-They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease
It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it’s for rent, and that it is what was advertised. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the owner and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
-They say they’re out of the country
But they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or an “agent” working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys. Don’t send money to them overseas. If you can’t meet in person, see the apartment, or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking. What if the rental itself is overseas? Paying with a credit card or through a reputable vacation rental website with its own payment system are your safest bets.
The above guidance is from the Federal Trade Commission. They offer additional guidance here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0079-rental-listing-scams#_blank