With the school year winding down and warmer weather just around the corner, many students are planning on moving out of college dorms – or their parents’ homes – to find apartments or rental homes for the summer and beyond. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is reminding students of the importance of doing their homework to ensure online listings for rental properties are legitimate and avoid falling victim to scams.
“The Internet has made it very easy to search for rental properties,” Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota, said. “Unfortunately, it’s also made it easier for scammers to create fake ads on sites like craigslist, which attract victims with promises of low rent, only to take their security deposits and leave them on the outside looking in.”
In an effort to help students avoid rental scams, the BBB has compiled some helpful information and tips for those who are beginning their search for rental properties. Renters should be wary if:
• The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
• The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate solely via e-mail. Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work – don’t believe it.
• An online listing has grammatical or spelling errors – often a sign the ad may have been created by overseas scammers not familiar with the nuances of the English language.
• You’re asked to wire money through wire transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram, or if you’re told the deposit or rent needs to be paid with a Green Dot MoneyPak card. Any money sent via these means is extremely difficult to trace, and there is little chance – if any – of getting your money back.
• The rental requires a security deposit or first month payment without meeting the landlord, inspecting the property or signing a lease. It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for a property you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it’s actually for rent – and make sure they have access to the property to inspect its condition – inside and out. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the landlord and the property listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a sign that something is likely amiss.
For more helpful consumer tips, visit bbb.org/us/Consumer-Tips/.