Hunting for a new home is an adventure on many levels. But there are also countless pitfalls. One of the most common is falling for fake real estate listings.
According to recent statistics, 43% of people hunting for a place to rent encounter fraudulent offers. Every year, more than 5 million people are fooled by scam listings and lose money.
One surefire way to avoid becoming the victim of a scam like that is to work with a trustworthy real estate agent, who can help you navigate the jungle of listings.
But in addition to that, you should keep your eyes open for these 5 tell-tale signs of fake listings.
It’s too cheap to be true.
If a listing looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is. That applies to its location, its amenities, size – but especially its price.
Once you’ve been looking for a place to rent for a while, chances are you’ve got a good handle on the average prices in the area. If you encounter anything significantly lower than that, you can almost certainly rule it out as a scam.
Beware of another common tactic: the bait-and switch. Here, someone will list a property well below market price – which may or may not exist. If you call, though, they will tell you that it’s already been rented out to someone else. But it just so happens that they’ve got something very similar, though more expensive.
The language and photos look fishy.
Whether it’s grammar, typos, or that the font size changes halfway through – any language mistakes and inconsistencies in a listing should raise red flags.
The same goes for pictures: if the room layouts you see don’t match the floor plan, or if the flooring materials, or paint colors in different pictures don’t line up, you should be wary.
More and more, though, scammers are copying legitimate listings from other sites. To check if this is the case, make sure that the watermarks in the pictures match the site you’re actually on. Plus, you can do a reverse image search to see if the pictures in the listings have been used before.
A scammer’s greatest asset is your fear of missing out.
You see an amazing listing – and then read that the offer is valid “today only,” or that there is a discount if you sign quickly. Your adrenaline spikes, you’ve got to seize the opportunity – and you overlook countless red flags.
If an offer seems too pushy, chances are that it’s a scam.
Typically, such pushy scams will ask you to make deposits or pay fees – usually by wire transfer – before you’ve even seen the property.
They want your personal information.
If a listing asks for financial information or highly personal data like your social security number right from the start, back away.
More likely than not, you’re looking at a scammer trying to abscond with bogus fees – and sell your information to identity fraudsters to boot.
An extra warning sign is reluctance on the lister’s part to share any of their information, other than their email address. At the very least, you should get a first and last name, as well as a cell number – so that you can research them before you proceed.
They don’t want to meet you.
Finally, another red flag is if landlords, owners, and agents are out of town. It’s especially common to use an excuse like being in the military, a missionary, or working for foreign aid.
If a lister doesn’t want to show you the property or asks you to pay a fee for someone else to show it to you, you’re almost certainly looking at a scam.