How to Avoid Rental Scams

It is an unfortunate reality that there are scammers who create fake rental listings in order to scam 
unsuspecting people out of money or personal information. They make take a deposit from a renter and 
then disappear with the money, or even steal a person’s identity with the information they’ve received. 
This form will help you identify some red flags that will help you recognize and avoid a rental scam, as 
well as offer some tips for protecting yourself.

Rental Red Flags

• Beware of a rushed timeline
It is a red flag if a potential landlord wants your personal information or money before you view the home. This is a 
common scam. Some legitimate landlords may ask to see identification before they show the unit, but they should not 
need anything other than that just to show you the rental. The scammer might be hoping to gain access to your social 
security number, bank account number, or other very personal information. Also, if you are asked to send money before 
you view the unit, something is not right. A common scam involves collecting an application fee, deposit, or rental 
amount and then disappearing with your money.

• The price or situation is “too good to be true”
A common trick that scammers use is to post photos of a very beautiful home at a very reduced cost. If it seems like the 
home is priced for a lot less than similar rentals in the area, it is very likely a scam. 

• You notice multiple listings using the same photos or exact wording
This can be a sign of a scammer’s attempt to conduct multiple housing scams at once. Craigslist in particular offers a 
helpful tool for this issue. While in a listing on Craigslist, when you right-click on a photo, it will give you the option to 
“search image with Google”. This will bring up places online that are using that same photo, helping you identify 
whether or not they belong to a real listing. 

• The listing is missing key information, such as a contact phone number or business name
A legitimate property manager will make it easy for you to get ahold of them. Only providing an email address through 
which to contact them can be the sign of a scam, as they are easier to hide behind and more difficult to track.

• They can’t show you the apartment, or they avoid meeting with you
Many scammers will have an excuse for why they cannot show you the property. If they can’t show you the unit, it’s 
likely because they don’t actually have access. A real landlord or property manager would arrange for someone they trust 
to show you the inside if they aren’t available. This is a financial transaction, and it’s important that you have the 
opportunity to view what you’re signing up for. A real landlord will want to meet with you, not avoid you.

• The listing comes with a sad story
A tool scammers might use is creating a sad story to explain why the rental is cheaper than usual, why they’re rushing to 
rent it, etc. They may claim to have a sick family member, and sad as that may be if its true, it has nothing to do with the 
transaction of renting a home and isn’t information a potential landlord would need to share with you. 

• The listing mentions specific payment methods
When it comes to rental listings, words like “money transfer,” “Western Union,” “Prepaid Visa,” and “Moneygram” are 
all red flags. When you send money via these methods, you likely cannot get your money back! This is why scammers prefer them. 

• The listing or communications have many misspellings, they refer to you only as “Sir” or “Madame,” 
or they don’t answer your direct questions
If a potential landlord is avoiding answering your questions, referring to you in generic terms, seem as though they 
might be speaking from a script, or their language seems unprofessional, this can be a sign of a scam.

Tips for Protecting Yourself Against Scams

• Always do your research! Google the address
If you look up the address on a search engine, it might bring up listings on real estate or property management sites for 
the property you’re interested in. Check to see if the name of the person or company on the listing matches the 
information on the websites, if the phone numbers match, etc. If the information does not match, the person who 
posted the listing might be spoofing a legitimate rental.

• Look for the name of a company within the rental listing
Many online apartment listings, even when posted through a third-party website like, Facebook 
Marketplace, or Craigslist, will include the information for the property management company or complex that owns 
the unit. If you notice a business name or logo in the listing, they will likely have a website and direct phone number 
that you can find by googling the company name. You can contact these companies directly rather than going through 
the listing, to add a layer of protection and get accurate information directly from the source.

• Use your county assessor’s public website to research the property’s owner
Landlords aren’t the only ones who can do a little research on their potential tenants– you as the renter are allowed to 
do some research as well! This is especially helpful if you’re trying to rent through a private owner, rather than a 
company. Most land ownership records are public, so you can use this tool to help confirm that the person trying to 
rent a unit to you is in fact the owner. If you run the address through the county assessor’s website, it will provide you 
with the full name of the property’s current owner. If this information does not match who you are speaking to, you 
may be communicating with a scammer. 

• Do your best to make sure that the person you are meeting is really the owner/property manager
Using the tips outlined above is helpful, but also keep in mind that if someone meets you at the unit but only lets you 
look in the windows, for example, they likely aren't the actual owner. A real landlord will have full access to the unit, 
and will want to be able to answer your questions. They won’t act like you’re doing them a favor in renting from them 
either, so be wary of them sharing sad stories about why they’re renting out the unit.

• Do not send money or very personal information before touring the unit 
This is a very common tool of scammers, and the easiest way to protect yourself is to avoid these actions. Be careful 
with your very personal information, to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. 

• Avoid sending payment via wire transfer, Western Union, Prepaid Visa, Moneygram, etc.
It is virtually impossible to get your money back if you send it via one of these methods, which is why scammers prefer 
receiving money this way. Money orders can be difficult to track also, so it’s a good idea to avoid these as well. 
A scammer might also ask for you to make a payment with gift cards, which a legitimate landlord would not do.

• Always trust your gut instinct
Your instincts are there to protect you. If something seems like it might be a scam, it likely is. If you’re unsure, you can 
always reach out to your advocate or another Peace at Home staff to look at the listing with you! A second opinion can 
be helpful.

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