RENTCafe.com is a nationwide apartment search website and a division of Yardi. All of RENTCafé's listings come directly from property managers and are 100 percent verified.
FREMONT, CA: Since the start of the pandemic, the number of fraudulent listings posted on the internet has increased. Local authorities, Better Business Bureau's local offices, and real estate companies warn renters looking for apartments to be extra diligent in their search and educate themselves on protecting against rental scams. To this end, apartment search website RENTCafe.com came up with a helpful tool for renters, which combines descriptions with practical advice and resources for reporting scams, as well as insight from experts.
Renters navigating the internet for apartment listings often come across hijacked ads, legitimate listings reposted by scammers but with a different price and different contact information that are often packaged as deals that seem too good to be true. Signs that may indicate scams include typos or excessive punctuation in the ad; a request to wire money up-front and without signing a contract; payment required for a credit check, primarily through a referral link; and/or the absence of any screening process.
To avoid these scams, renters should look for verified listings, which come directly from property managers or owners. Additionally, when coming across suspicious listings, renters can reverse Google search by image and check other websites where that apartment is listed to find the original source. It's also essential to visit the apartment; in-person, self-guided tours are a viable and safe option during the pandemic, but many property managers also offer to show the property via video call. Renters should always request to see the apartment and the rental community.
"As an apartment search website with 100 percent verified listings directly from property managers, we know the importance of a safe and worry-free experience for finding a home," said Esther Bonardi, vice president of marketing at Yardi. "The concerns renters have when navigating through rental ads, especially now as apartment-hunting is largely conducted online, prompted us to create this comprehensive guide with all they need to know about scams."
To help other renters and the community in general, those who discover fraudulent listings should report them to the proper authorities to investigate and resolve the issue. These include the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center, as well as local law enforcement agencies. Lawyers and realtors agree that the best course of action when dealing with a scam is to report the fraudulent listing and avoid confronting a scammer directly.