More than 5 million renters report they have lost money from online fraud

By Kelly Leighton | Aug. 22, 2018 | 2 min. read

More than 43 percent of renters report they have found properties for rent that seemed suspect, and more than 5 million Americans have lost money due to rental fraud.

A new ApartmentList survey found that nearly one-third of the 6.4 percent of renters who have fallen victim to a scam have lost more than $1,000, while 17.6 percent lost more than $2,000. Those who lost less money likely fell for a fraudulent application fee and those who lost more most likely put down a safety deposit or paid rent. The median loss from a rental scam is $400.

However, of renters who have lost money from a scam, nearly 90 percent have changed how they look for housing to prevent it from happening again. More than one-third reported they now do more research on the property, 35 percent will not rent without seeing a property and 26.7 will not sign a lease of pay a deposit without meeting the landlord in person.

Younger renters, defined as those age 18-29, are 42 percent more likely to have lost money from rental scams. Nearly 49 percent of younger renters have encountered a suspicious listing, 27.4 percent have contacted a scam rental, 9.1 percent lost money from a rental fraud and 7.2 percent signed a scam lease.

Encountering fraudulent listings is, unfortunately, a common part of the rental search, with 43.1 percent of renters encountering listings they believed were scams. While many renters ignore these listings, over half of the renters who encountered fraudulent listings contacted a property before realizing it was fraudulent. Luckily, most renters are able to identify suspicious listings before losing money.

ApartmentList said the most common scams include bait-and-switch, when a different property is advertised than the available rental, phantom rentals, where a the scammer creates up listings for places that aren’t rentals or don’t even exist and hijacked ads, in which the scam artists posts a real rental property with their own contact information. Other scams include already leased rentals being advertised to collect deposits or application fees, and missing amenities, when a real listing is described as having more features than it actually does.

The top lied about feature is laundry units, followed by heat or air conditioning and then outdoor space, like a patio or balcony.

Make sure you, and your clients, are diligent and always double checking anything that seems to be too good to be true.

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