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Tips to Avoid Rental Scams
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Courtney (She/Her)
Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor
Posted February 11, 2021
If you’re like I was in college, you’re probably already thinking about where you want to live next and may change your living arrangements each year or so. Moving to a new space with updated surroundings, and possibly roommates, can be a great way to recharge or start fresh.

However, due to social distancing and uniqueness of life right now, many people are not able to physically visit rental properties before deciding where you want to live next. This has opened many doors for scam artists to try to steal your money and possibly leave you without a place to stay. Keep reading to learn existing scams and tips to spot fraud before handing over your money.
The scam
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Fraudsters typically start by pretending to be a property management business, landlord or individual renting out personal space. From there, they will advertise the non-existent rental option or options that are real locations but are not actually available for rent. Once someone shows interest in these “rentals”, they will be asked to sign paperwork along with some sort of financial hold. This can be a security deposit, one month’s rent, or both which can be a significant amount of money.
The result
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Sometimes individuals will become aware of the scam once they’ve sent money, and then correspondence stops and additional research is done. On the other hand, some people don’t find out until they are ready to move in and realize the location is not real, not available, or much different than agreed upon. Filling a police report and informing others can help prevent people from falling victim to same type of fraud, but it can be difficult to recover those funds.
Tips to keep in mind
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     - If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Research typical costs for similar rentals in the area to see if the payment requested seems reasonable.
     - Research past landlords or property management businesses, reviews for the rental, and history of the site.
     - Break apart the information. It can be helpful to research pieces of information separately to see if they come together. For example, search for the address, phone number, and name provided separately and see what information comes up.
     - Ask other friends or classmates about their experience with rental properties.
     - Ask the renter to video chat with you so you can see the place in real time.
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