If you are looking to rent a home, condo, or other property, there is a lot to worry about. You have to make sure the area is safe, the property is in good condition, the property is in your budget, the commute is worth the extra gas money, and on and on. You should not have to worry about house rental scams on top of everything else, but unfortunately, you do. There are scammers who copy and paste legitimate ads from the internet, scammers who try to make money off of bank-owned properties, and all sorts of scammers in between. Luckily, there are some tell-tale signs to help you spot scams, and once you know how to spot these scammers, it is not too difficult to avoid them.

How to Spot a Scammer in North Chicago

Some scammers get pretty elaborate with their frauds, but no matter how committed these nefarious individuals are, there are some easy ways to find them.

  • If the alleged landlord asks for money via Western Union, Moneygram, or a Prepaid Visa Card, run the other way. Asking you to wire money is an easy way for scam artists to get quick money from you and disappear. Similarly, do not anyone who only wants to deal in cash.  It is better to use checks or similar forms of payment that come with built-in fail-safes.
  • Be wary of anyone who stresses urgency and tries, again and again, to make you sign leases or hand over money on the spot. Legitimate landlords or property owners will be willing to wait and take all the necessary steps to ensure you will be a good tenant.
  • Going along with that, if your future landlord has little to no interest in your background, it could be a red flag. Usually, landlords will want information about your current employment, criminal history, and rental background in order to ensure that you would make a good tenant. If the person you are in contact with has no interest in this information, they could be a scammer with no right to rent you a property at all.
  • Abnormally high-security deposits are another bad sign. If the landlord you are in contact with is trying to get as much money up front as possible, there is a good chance that they are not a landlord at all. Look into average security deposit costs to determine whether or not the requested price is suspicious.
  • A landlord who refuses to meet with you in person, claiming to be away from Northern Chicago, on active military duty, or otherwise, is another red flag. Any legitimate landlord would find a way to meet with you in order to make you feel comfortable with the rental process.
  • If you find a rental listing with a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many scammers clone existing real estate advertisements and change the price to drum up fierce competition among potential buyers. The idea is that renters will not want to pass up such a great deal, and they will be more likely to pay big money up front in order to “secure the property.”
  • Landlords who demand money from you before you ever even set foot on the property are likely scam artists. Always make sure that the property exists before making a payment.
  • Correspondence from scammers is often riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes. Sometimes emails will be unnecessarily lengthy or include some kind of sad story to drum up sympathy and make renters more inclined to pay money without asking questions. Expect professional correspondence from potential landlords.

How to Avoid House Rental Scams

Now that you have read all of the red flags, spotting most house rental scams should be simple. If you still aren’t sure if you are dealing with a scammer, here are some tips to make sure that you do not fall victim to a house rental scam.

  • Never send money without first securing a lease and confirming that the property manager has the legal right to rent the property.
  • Do some basic research on Google. Search the name and email address of the landlord or property manager. You might find evidence to support that they are who they say they are, or you could find that someone has already reported them as a scammer. You can also search multiple rental listing sites for duplicate listings. You can even drag an image from the advertisement into the search bar and perform a reverse image search.
  • Do not fill out an application before you have seen the property. If you only see photos of the property, there is always a chance that it does not exist or the “property manager” does not have the authority to rent it out.
  • Demand a written lease. A simple oral contract is not binding—you need proof that both parties have agreed to the rental conditions in case the property manager is collecting multiple security deposits for the same property and delivering only empty promises.
  • Always see the rental property and meet the landlord in person before agreeing to sign anything or pay any money.

Spend Your Time on Listings Published by Known Entities

Most phony rental listings are posted on sites with little to no regulation like Craigslist. Looking into these private listings will always be riskier than searching for rental properties through property management companies. Many landlords choose to sign on with property managers so that their tenants will know that they are not scammers. North Chicago rental scams are more present than ever, so if you are looking for a rental home, consider searching Keyrenter’s North Chicago listings to find the perfect place to live. If you do happen upon a scam, report it to your local law enforcement, on the FTC website (if the scam was found on the internet), and/or local publications (if they published the fraudulent content).