Savvy Consumer Tip: Rental Scammers Are Taking Advantage of a Tight Housing Market

by Chris Bjorklund

People scrambling to find apartments and rental houses often pay for rental listings. Sadly, some of them find that the lists they buy are worthless. One man paid more than $200 for a list of homes to rent, and when he visited three of the addresses, he discovered they were occupied. Applying for a refund was equally frustrating. The agency said the agreement he signed allowed them to take up to 90 days to issue a refund. Three months later, their phone was disconnected and the company disappeared with his money.

Another common scam is to require people who respond to a phony rental ad to pay for a credit report. The con artists collect a commission or simply keep the fee. Sometimes, tenants are asked to do a money transfer for the first month’s rent. Researchers who studied suspicious real estate ads found that the companies were, in fact, scammers based in Nigeria. Renters, beware!