Fraud Awareness Tips for Renters
While the vast majority of apartment listings on Apartments.com are legitimate, you should be aware that certain individuals post apartment listings on Apartments.com for the sole purpose of scamming potential renters.
In the same manner, the vast majority of e-mail and phone leads sent to apartment managers using our Web site are from real, interested buyers. However, you should be aware that certain individuals may contact a property manager or express an interest in leasing an apartment for the sole purpose of scamming the landlord or property manager.
When using the Internet, you should always exercise caution and common sense. When using the Apartments.com Web site, you can help protect yourself by learning more about how the Apartments.com service operates and taking the precautions outlined below. If an activity seems suspicious or a transaction seems unbelievably good, you should beware.
Deceptive E-Mails & Claims
Apartments.com merely acts as forum in which potential renters can search listings of apartments for rent and contact landlords to discuss the specifics of the apartment, arrange for a showing, and/or possibly enter into an agreement to lease the apartment. All transactions are between renters and landlords. Be aware that Apartments.com never participates in transactions between renters and landlords. Specifically, we do not lease apartments or collect payments or deposits for apartments. Finally, given the nature of our service, you should be aware that we do not and cannot verify the authenticity or legitimacy of any renter, landlord or property advertised for rent.
Advice for Renters
- Avoid ads that are "too good to be true." Ads for apartments in big cities such as New York with rents significantly below market value are almost always lures used by scam artists. Check other listings in the general area and see what the going rates for apartments are before responding.
- Always see the apartment in person before sending any money or providing personal information such as your social security number, even if it's just to fill out an application. Under no circumstances should you do business with an overseas landlord unless you have personally verified their identity and that they actually own the apartment advertised.
- Dealing locally is best. The safest way to deal is in person and face to face. Be wary if the prospective landlord only wants to communicate via e-mail. Be more wary if the landlord is currently out of the country or resides overseas or far from where the apartment is located. Be extremely wary if the landlord flat out refuses to talk on the phone or claims they cannot talk on the phone.
- Exercise extreme caution before wiring deposits or rent payments using Western Union or MoneyGram, especially to foreign countries. Sending money in any form overseas will likely result in losing all of it. Western Union and MoneyGram are very popular for Internet scams because the funds are available instantly, untraceably and worldwide.
- Scan any attachments from landlords with anti-virus software before opening. One of the latest scams involves a "landlord" e-mailing an unsuspecting renter additional photos of the apartment for lease. However, one or more of the e-mail attachments contains a virus that can fool your Web browser to make it appear as though you're going to a legitimate site but in fact are being sent to a site controlled by the scammer. The best way to protect yourself is by using commercial anti-virus software, keeping it up to date and by scanning all e-mail attachments before opening or double-clicking them. Commercial Web-based e-mail services such as Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail provide virus-scanning services free of charge.
Advice for Landlords and Property Managers
- Dealing locally is best. The safest way to deal is in person and face to face. Be wary if the prospective renter only wants to communicate via e-mail. Be more wary if the prospective renter is currently out of the country or resides overseas or far from where the apartment is located. Be extremely wary if the seller flat out refuses to talk on the phone or claims they cannot talk on the phone.
- Avoid complicated payment schemes. Be suspicious of a payment process that involves many steps. One popular scam involves sending you a cashier's check for more than the rent or deposit and asking you to wire the difference back to the prospective renter. These cashier's checks are almost always counterfeit and your bank will hold you liable. Any overpayment you wire back to the buyer will come directly out of your pocket.
- Never accept a check for more than your standard deposit and/or prepaid rent requirements.
- Verify payment. If someone offers to send you prepaid rent or a deposit paid by a cashier's or certified check, always verify the authenticity of the check with the issuing bank. Do not rely on the phone number printed on the check; look it up yourself. The bank can verify its routing number, describe the specific security features of its checks and even verify that there are sufficient funds to cover the check.
To Report Suspicious Activity
If someone attempts to pull any of these scams on you:
- Cease all communications with the person. You do not have to give an explanation though you can simply say you are no longer interested.
- Promptly report any suspicious activity, e-mails or Websites to Apartments.com at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- You may also file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- If you feel you have been the victim of fraud, you should take any steps to cancel or reverse a transaction or stop payment and you should promptly report this activity to local law enforcement authorities.