If you, or someone you know, were displaced after Hurricane Florence or Michael, finding a new place to live is a priority. But before you pay any money, be cautious of rental listing scams. Scammers often advertise rentals that don’t exist to trick people into sending money before they find out the truth.
Some scammers hijack a real rental or real estate listing by changing the email address or other contact information, and placing the modified ad on another site. The altered ad may even use the name of the person who posted the original ad. In other cases, scammers have hijacked the email accounts of property owners on reputable rental websites. Other rip-off artists make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist.
Here are some signs you may be dealing with a scam:
- They tell you to wire money. There’s never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, or first month’s rent. That’s true even if they send you a contract first. Wiring money is like sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
- They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease. If you can’t visit the residence, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it’s for rent, and that it’s what was advertised. Also do a search on the owner and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
For more tips and links to resources, see Picking up the pieces after a hurricane.