BBB: Rental scams often preceded by red flags

Posted at 12:01 PM, Oct 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-09 14:21:33-04

Whether it is for a last-minute vacation or a weekend getaway, or simply because you want a more permanent place to live without having to pay the purchase price, you may need to rent a house at some point.

As the Better Business Bureau points out, scammers are quick to take advantage of those who have little experience in this area, and that is why it is important to take the steps necessary to make sure that your rental is the real deal.

Typically, here is how it works:

You think you have found the perfect home. It is listed with a price that seems too good to be true. After calling the number listed on a rental website or classified, you are told that the “owner” is unable to meet in person.  The fake owner may tell you they live out of the area, so you will need to wire a deposit in order to secure the house. Then, you show up to move into your new home, only to find out that the home is not available, and you have been cheated out of your money.

In this scenario, there are usually a few red flags to look for:

THE PHOTOGRAPHY SHOWS A PERFECT HOME. Do not be fooled by pictures. Scammers will post beautiful photos of homes and condos, some real and some not. It may be a good idea to ask for additional photos, as an honest landlord will always have them. Type in the given address of a property to confirm that it is legitimate and matches the photos you have viewed.

THE DEAL SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure in victims. If it seems to you that a rental is suspiciously low, consider walking away. If you look, you may find the same ad listed under a different name or with different contact information, all signs of a scam.

THE LANDLORD IS LOCATED ELSEWHERE AND PREFERS TO COMMUNICATE VIA EMAIL. Often, scammers do not actually live near the properties they are peddling. If they avoid talking on the phone, it could be because they actually live in another country.

YOU ARE ASKED TO SEND MONEY BY WIRE TRANSFER OR TO PAY CASH. These are the preferred methods of payment among criminals. It is never a good idea to pay for something like a house rental in cash. Use a credit card instead, as most will allow you to recover money you lose to fraud.

As with any deal, it is important to do your research before making a commitment.

Got a question for the BBB? Contact Regional Director Kelly Trevino at or call (361) 852-4991.