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Rental Scams: How To Avoid Them

Hello, property and potential property owners! Welcome to the RPM Distinguished Care blog, where we provide practical advice about property management! If you’re a return visitor, welcome back. We sincerely appreciate your support! RPM Distinguished Care specializes in managing successful rental properties in and around the Charleston area. We’re here to make your lives easier by giving you the resources you need to maximize profitability and have a successful rental property. We provide comprehensive property management services at every possible level. From advertising and marketing, to responding to applications, to inspecting and maintaining properties–there’s nothing we do not do. Further, we ensure tenant compliance, handle necessary evictions, and report directly back to you about revenue and profit potentials. We aim to make owning rental property as easy for you as possible, for as little money as possible. Check out the rest of our site to meet our team and discover what makes RPM Distinguished Care the best property management company in Charleston!


In our last post, we talked about mistakes to avoid when screening a tenant. Tenant screening is one of the most crucial parts of owning and renting property. This allows you to verify an applicant’s identity, give you an idea of the type of tenant they will be, and get some insight into their finances. The process may seem pretty straightforward, but there are a few common mistakes that are made. If you are interested in learning what mistakes to avoid, check out our last blog!


Today, we’ll be discussing online rental scams. Unfortunately, these scams have become prevalent in recent years on websites such as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. If you are in the market for finding a new home or apartment to rent, you should be aware of these scams so that you do not fall victim to them. If you are interested in learning about online rental scams and how you can avoid them, you’re in the right place. Let’s get right into it.


When it comes to online rental scams, the scammer will pose as a landlord or property owner by posting photos of an actual property for rent. While the photos are often real, the property does not belong to the person who posted it. Instead, they are posing as a landlord in an attempt to get money from unsuspecting people looking to rent. Sometimes, the scammer will ask the victim to create an account on a payment app or website, such as Zelle, CashApp, or Venmo. They will often send a fake rental application or lease agreement and ask the victim to use a payment app to submit an application fee, deposit, or rent. Some scammers take it a step further, giving hopeful renters an approval letter or even a code to the lockbox. (Pro tip for property managers: Never reuse lock box codes!)  


It’s happening all across the country– And even right in our backyard. The Goose Creek Police Department has dealt with seven reports of rental house scams since January. In February, a man in Charleston almost fell victim to a scam in which the person posing as the landlord wanted him to send $100 via Zelle. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can look out for to avoid falling victim to rental property scams. Here are some things to be aware of:


  1. The Price


First and foremost, if the price of the rental property seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many of these scams lure people in with a jaw-dropping price. Take a look at the price of similar rental properties in the area and compare it to the listing you’ve found. If it is significantly lower than the average market price, you probably want to be cautious. 


  1. The Grammar


Carefully read over the ad for the rental property and check for grammatical or spelling errors. If there are a lot of errors, you may want to pass by the listing. You should also check for an overuse of capitalization or the use of uncommon spellings of words, such as “colour” instead of “color”. This could mean that the scammer copied and pasted the listing from another website or does not live in the U.S. 


  1. The Details


Is the listing vague? The ad posting should accurately describe what can be seen in the photos. Read over the description carefully and ask yourself this: Could this accurately describe pretty much any home, or is it specific to the photos being shown? Is any part of the description incorrect based on the photos? If the listing is vague or incorrect, you should skip over it.


  1. They don’t want to show you the property first.


This is perhaps one of the biggest red flags. Scammers will tell you that you need to sign a lease or send money before you can see a rental property, because they don’t actually have access to the property. Never sign documents or transfer money before seeing a property in person or meeting with the landlord or property manager. Another thing to watch out for is if the person you’re communicating with is claiming that the property owner is out of the country, too busy, or otherwise unavailable for a meeting. 


  1. They are pushy about payment.


If the person you are communicating with seems to only be worried about payment, consider this another red flag. Scammers will use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to send them money. For example, they may tell you that if you don’t send money quickly, someone else may get the property. They may also ask for personal information, such as a Social Security number or credit card information. Never give out any personal information without verifying the agent’s identity first. Additionally, if they are ready and willing to rent to you without meeting you or getting any background information for you, something is likely wrong. 


If you are browsing the internet for a rental property, here are some things you should do:


  • Do a search for the landlord, property owner, or property manager you are dealing with. Can you verify their identity? Is their identity the same across all social media platforms?
  • Search for the address of the rental property and verify that it exists. If you find the same property listed under a different name, it may be a scam.
  • Look around for comparable properties using websites such as Zillow to see if the price makes sense.
  • Ask as many questions as you need to! Make sure you have all of the information you need.
  • Negotiate an in-person showing or meeting. If you are in another city or state, ask someone you trust to take a look at the property for you. 
  • Get all of the terms of your rental in writing, including fees, rent, and maintenance.
  • Get a copy of the lease signed by both you and the property manager.


If you think you have come across a rental property scam, report it to your local law enforcement. If you found the scam on a website such as Facebook Marketplace, report it to the site it was posted. We hope you found this article helpful. If you are a rental property owner looking for assistance in managing your property, feel free to reach out to us! RPM Distinguished Care specializes in residential property management and offers a range of services including communication, marketing, and advertising, thorough tenant screening and selection, full-service leasing, timely rent collection, regular evaluations, cost-effective and reliable maintenance, strict and compliant evictions, and comprehensive accounting. We utilize an online portal for owners to keep track of their property, including access to reports and financial statements. With over 30 years of experience, we know how to keep your property at its best. We believe in full-service and comprehensive property management. That’s why we take the time to understand each of our clients and help identify their most closely-held goals. Let us give you peace of mind that your property is in good hands. Use our website to request your free assessment and meet with our expert team! Thank you for taking the time to read this article and we hope to hear from you soon! See you next time!

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We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

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