What to Do if You’re the Victim of an Apartment Rental Scam

in Help Me Now!, Legal Issues on by

A woman surrounded by moving boxes holding a calculator and pointing to her head.Getting scammed is embarrassing. Whether it’s an auction site purchase, an allegedly “free” vacation, or an apartment rental, you usually feel stupid in hindsight when all those big red flags suddenly become visible to you. Don’t be too hard on yourself, though — scammers are professionals who prey on honest people, so just chalk it up to experience and learn from your mistakes.

What to Do If You’ve Already Been Scammed

Forget your pride and embarrassment over being duped. Now’s a great chance to do the right thing. Not only will exposing a rental scam show your altruistic side, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of helping strangers in similar situations to avoid losing money and time.

If you’ve been swindled in any way, immediately take one or more of these steps:

Contact the Police

Don’t be embarrassed. Just look at the report as you doing your civic duty, or an act that could’ve saved you time and money had someone before you reported the incident. Chances are slim you’ll recover any money, but if more people report the same con, the odds of finding the thief increase exponentially.

Get in Touch with the Publisher of the Ad

Whether you found the listing online or in a newspaper, no publisher wants to tarnish their reputation by promoting scam artists. Find the appropriate contact form or email address, describe in detail what happened to you, and let them know you’ve reported the incident to the police. Publishers will often follow up by asking other readers if they’ve had similar experiences, which helps law enforcement build a case and track down the culprit.

File a Formal Complaint

Be sure to file complaints with the state consumer protection agency, as well any city and county agencies and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The more you make the scam public, the better your chances of stopping the fraud.

Learn from Your Bad Experience

Share your experience with friends and family. Use what you learned and confidently proceed with your apartment search armed with newfound wisdom and insight.

How to Spot an Apartment Scam

If you’ve been scammed on an apartment rental and you’re still reeling, it’s probable the con employed one or more of these common tricks. Before you get back on the rental horse, you’ll want to be on the lookout for these common rental fraud scenarios:

Phony Claims About Amenities

Olympic-size swimming pools, garage parking, a state-of-the-art gym — anything you’ve ever wanted in an apartment, this agent has it. Unless you can see it all in person, (pictures and websites don’t count) back off fast.

An Abnormally Large Deposit

Most city, county and/or state housing authorities have limits on how much landlords can charge for deposits on rental properties. On top of that, some areas prohibit security deposits altogether. Always check the laws in your area before you start hunting. Many scammers will just take your deposit and disappear.

Rental Rate Doesn’t Match Others in the Neighborhood

If all the units of similar size in a neighborhood are around $2000 a month and you’re shown a similar apartment for a lot less, take it as a big red flag. The person who shows you the property may not be the actual leasing agent but a scam artist just collecting deposits from several potential renters and skipping town.

Requested Information is Minimal/No Lease Mentioned

Even if you and the landlord seem to have a magical instant rapport and trust seems mutual, that doesn’t mean general protocols are not in order. If no credit report is requested and no lease is discussed or presented for review, something shady is probably in the works.

Double Renting

One of the oldest rental scams in books is the act of showing a property to several parties, taking deposits from everyone, and then leaving everyone in a lurch, all of them thinking they’ve just secured a new home. For that reason, it’s important to watch out for landlords who request low cash-only deposits on the spot.

Fairytale Rentals

Renting an apartment you can’t see in person is difficult but often necessary if you’re relocating to a distant city. Unfortunately, landlords can provide pictures of any apartment at all to draw you in, lie about the neighborhood’s amenities and location, and tell you exactly what you want to hear to get that deposit. Always make sure to look up the address online, look at images and videos of the neighborhood, and check out sites like Craigslist to view nearby rental properties before parting with any money.

If you’ve already fallen for a scam, don’t get discouraged. Most landlords and property managers are fair and scrupulous. Use what you’ve learned as you continue your search more confident and well-informed. Picture yourself in your new apartment entertaining friends at a housewarming party, raising a glass to celebrate your new home, and saying: “And now, I have a story to tell that you’ll find hard to believe.” When that moment finally arrives, you’ll see that your humor and self-deprecating remarks prove that you emerged as a winner.

7 Responses to “What to Do if You’re the Victim of an Apartment Rental Scam”

  1. May 03, 2019 at 4:24 pm, Dwanna said:

    Please help paid in full but have yet to receive keys live in ohio and yes I have a signed lease stating that move in date was for 5/1/19 when I call she won't answer her calls.


  2. September 10, 2019 at 8:19 pm, Dee said:

    What the heck.Family has lease signed to move in apt this month on 12th , found out mgr says their deny me apartment cant move in as lease agreement. What me and family supposed to do NOW ?? Have handicapped family member .How is this legal ?? Who do I contact


  3. September 12, 2019 at 8:59 am, Yvonne said:

    Well the thing here is the maintainance and faucilty have to know by now that the people here are robbing people living here and come in your house.e when you are sleeping and damn near killing g you but hitting and you can't defend yourself cause.they have give you something do you don't wake up hell I've even smell manufacting smell of meth and the drug accicts are proof that it's true yes I call the police but you have to see where there going under to get the police there to see all this


  4. February 19, 2020 at 3:47 pm, Raul said:

    I was helping a friend of mine move into her new apartment one day and it got late so she told me to stay that i could leave in the morning which i did..the very next day police came with the low income housing people and told my friend that the person who rented her that apartment isn't the actual owner of that aprtment so the police cited me for trespassing even though i was there helping someone move in and not knowing the circumstance


  5. January 15, 2021 at 11:28 pm, Regina hunter said:

    Gentification tenants gang together they reported me to the superintendent and landlord comeplained about me and my dogs I received a letter from owners lawyer to quite and secead tenants lied about everything i asked for ameeting because I have videos of tenants creating unforcen act toward me and my dogs


  6. January 15, 2021 at 11:49 pm, Regina hunter said:

    Gentification tenants gang to gether they reported me to the superintendent and landlord complain about me and my dogs l received a letter from the owner lawyer quite and scead tanaent lied about everything I ask for a meeting because I have videos of tenant creating unforcen act toward me and my dogs


  7. January 15, 2021 at 11:51 pm, Regina hunter said:

    Please help me


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