Rental scam

From the same series that provides information and examples of Internet-related scams,  today E-Crime Expert is presenting another common type of scam: the Rental scam (when someone is looking to rent a place, usually in a different city/country that he/she lives).

How it works:

For example: someone copies a rental offer advertising and posts it on a website corresponded to a city where there is a high demand to rent (i.e. BrusselsParis, London, New York, Toronto, etc). The offer is posted on a specialized rental website, describing a property which exists in reality, with a real address and real pictures, and the price will be much below the market.

People start sending inquires to the fake “owner” and because they know this is a great opportunity to get a such place in a such location for such a bargain they will do anything to get it. So, the “owner” will agree to rent them the place, but before they will sign the contract (provided by regular mail) they have to pay a deposit (one or two months of rent) in order for the apartment to be reserved for them (because often times the people who are looking to rent are from other cities or countries).

Being a “great deal” they will agree to pay and will send money via Western Union or Money Gram or PayPal. Remember that potential renter could check maps online or even send a friend to confirm that the place exists in reality and it does, so they will trust the owner and send the money.

Of course the “owner” is not the real owner of that place but a scammer. He gets the money and no accommodation will be provided, because he does not own the place he might be located in a different city. So, please be careful. The fake “owner” can also get the real identification details, address, location, exact name of the owner, for example from Facebook  (Timeline, Profile or Ticker) or by using Spam, Phishing, unsecured Wi-Fi Internet connections and any other Identity theft-related scam.

If you have doubts regarding such a great offer, please consult this website or contact E-crime Expert and he can check if the property is legitimately rented out by the owner or if it is a scam.

To see a very explanatory video on how this scam works, watch the video below.

Credit: Dave Dugdale. “How to Unmask Rental Scammers” YouTube: drumat5280.

How could you prevent this scam?

  • always check if possible if there is a legitimate person or company by asking for a phone number or any identifiable information that could be further investigated.
  • check if the email address contains a company name, and if so, verify the authenticity of that company.
  • if the email address contains only a name you could check if that name/email address was involved before in a similar scam. Please check this website
  • if there are errors or contradictory information in the advertisement with the wording, directions, communications (once the scammer uses an email address, and another time a different one).
  • if the add contains spelling errors, grammar errors (many scammers use the most circulated languages which may not be their mother tongue).
  • never send money via Western Union or Money Gram. Better pay with a credit card because the payment can be cancelled.
  • better stay in a hotel/hostel for few days if moving to another city and look locally for a place to rent once arrived to your new destination. It is cheaper to spend few nights in a hotel rather than losing the money for two month rent.
  • before moving, look for a legitimated rental agency in your destination city, such as (Brussels): Home in Brussels. Immobe Apartments, Logic immo, etc.
  • if you are moving for work, ask your new employer/company, to help you in this matter. They will at least provide you with legitimated rental adds.
  • almost always what is to good to be true is valid: if the rental price is much lower than the market, there are higher chances for there to be a scam involved.
  • for more info, please watch this video here.

Any questions can be submitted to:

Additional information can be found at:

Did this scam ever happen to you? After this post, would you be able to protect yourself from this scam?

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  1. September 28, 2011 at 01:12

    These scams happen so often, that I recently started a site to help renters avoid them. There are more sophisticated scams that don’t involve wiring money out of the country also, so they are harder to detect without doing your homework on the ownership of the property, which we can help with. Foreclosures on rental properties are also a big issue that renters need to be aware of.

    Check out our site – for more information on how to check your landlord before renting.

  2. Dan Manolescu
    September 28, 2011 at 08:53

    Thank you Michael for such a useful resource and comment. You are totally right: scams are becoming more and more sophisticated.
    Great website!

  1. September 28, 2011 at 09:49
  2. September 29, 2011 at 11:52
  3. September 30, 2011 at 09:27

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