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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > July 2013 > Prospective Renters, Beware of Rental Scams

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Prospective Renters, Beware of Rental Scams

Finding a new apartment or home to rent can be challenging. As you scan through rental ads considering the neighborhood, cost, and size, what you may not consider is that the listing could be a fake. Rental listing scams target consumers who are looking for a good deal on a great place and trick people into sending money.

In a typical scenario, a scammer obtains the address and picture of a house or apartment posted online and reposts it on another website as a place to rent. The rent is often low, and scammers may try to explain the bargain by claiming they had to leave the country quickly. In order to secure the rental, the scammer tells the potential renter to send hundreds or thousands of dollars, typically via wire transfer. Any money sent will be lost to the scammer.

Since January, the Attorney General’s Office has received more than a dozen reports of the scam, and consumers who fell for it reported an average loss of $1,000. Since summer is a common time to move, consumers should be especially wary when a rental seems too good to be true.

When browsing for apartments, keep the following in mind:
  • Be skeptical of ads offering below-market rental rates.
  • Don't trust potential "landlords" who say they had to leave the country quickly.
  • Be skeptical of property owners who say they are missionaries in another country.
  • Don't send money until you've had a face-to-face transaction, including actually viewing the property.
  • Beware of requests for wire transfers or prepaid money cards as payment methods.
  • Copy and paste an image from the listing into a search engine to determine if it has  appeared elsewhere online. You may need to save the image to your computer and browse for it through the search engine.
  • If available, read and follow the scam prevention tips provided by any websites you use.
  • Search your county auditor’s website for a record of who owns the property.
In addition, landlords and individuals who want to lease their property should be wary of overpayment scams. In this ploy, a con artist poses as a potential tenant, sends the landlord a counterfeit check for more than the asking price of the deposit or rent, and — when the “overpayment” is discovered — asks the landlord to send the difference back to the con artist. The check later will be returned as counterfeit, and any money the landlord sent will be lost.
Real estate agents and sellers can protect themselves by following these tips:
  • Don't list the complete address of the property online.
  • Watermark your photos.
  • If you find a fraudulent posting based on your listing, notify the website or listing agent.
Consumers should report potential scams to the Ohio Attorney General's Office at or 800-282-0515.