Scams occur in almost every industry, both online and offline. Some scammers will create real estate listings online to gather someone’s personal financial information. The RentHop team works diligently to review listings and verify all agents and owners who post on the site. However, always proceed with caution and watch out for potential scams when searching for apartments.
As a general rule, do not pay someone you have never met for an apartment you have never seen. Do not provide your financial information, like credit card numbers, bank account numbers, etc., to someone online.
Watch out for common signs of scamming behavior:
- The landlord claims they’re “out of town,” either in another state or out of the country. They claim they own a property in the state you are looking for but can’t meet in person. Most scams come from landlords who claim to be missionaries, UN workers, or in the military.
- Emails or phone calls during odd hours. This could be an indication that the scammer is operating from overseas.
- Gratuitous spelling or grammatical errors in written communication.
- Requests for personal or financial information right off the bat. Under no circumstance should you provide information like a bank account number or social security number to an unknown source.
- Requests for money transfers or wires via Western Union or MoneyGram. Wiring funds is the number one indicator of a scam. Never pay in advance for any service.
What should I do if I’ve been scammed?
If you believe you are a scam victim, report the listing to the site you found it on. Then, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission.
If you have already wired money to a potential scammer, you should immediately report the incident to the wire company. They may be able to reverse the transfer if the recipient hasn’t yet collected the funds. When spending money to acquire an apartment, you should use checks, credit cards, or other trackable payment options.
When filing a report, include as many details as possible about the transaction. Include information such as your name, contact information, address, the amount of the transfer, name and contact information of the recipient, details of the incident, including written correspondence, as well a receipt confirmation of the transfer if applicable.
Better safe than sorry
If a rental seems too good to be true, it most likely is. When working with an agent or landlord, research them to ensure that they are a reputable person who will rent out the apartment.
Take the following steps to gather information about the person you’re working with:
- Check online ratings/reviews of the agent or landlord on RentHop and elsewhere. RentHop encourages agents on the site to upload reviews from their past clients. You can find reviews on an agent or landlord’s page under their contact information.
- Call the agent’s real estate company to double-check that the agent is licensed with that brokerage.
- Ask the agent to show their license when on an appointment; agents are required to carry their license with them when showing apartments. Note that some management companies require agents to leave their license with them when borrowing the keys for a showing.
- An agent can share their license number, and you can look them up on New York’s eAccess license lookup page to ensure their license is real and currently active.
- Ask friends and family for the agents and brokerages they have worked with.
- Google search the person’s name.
You do not need to provide your ID to verify an account on RentHop
Some scammers may try to convince renters to verify their RentHop account to learn more about the apartment or schedule a tour. RentHop does not require renters to submit an ID, passport, or another personal identification card to use the platform. The site will only ask renters to verify their phone numbers.
A scammer may send a renter a link to verify their account, and that link may ask the renter to submit photos of their identification card and take selfies of themselves. The scammer will then use that information to verify a new account where they can continue to scam users.
If a prospective agent or landlord asks you to verify their account, please email email@example.com and provide information about the interaction. A screenshot of the conversation and the link to the listing you inquired about will help the RentHop support team stop the scammer.