BBB in Eastern MA, ME, RI & VT —
Moving this summer? Watch out for a new twist on fake rental ads. According to multiple BBB Scam Tracker reports, scammers use fake tenant credit checks to trick potential renters into compromising sensitive personal information.
How the scam works
You find a good deal on an apartment while browsing rental listings online. When you call the number to inquire, the owner asks you to complete a credit check before you can see the place. If you agree, they’ll send you a link to a website where you can get the credit check done.
The website may look professional, but it’s all part of a scam. After you enter your sensitive information and pay for the credit check, the “landlord” will disappear. Your credit card information could be compromised, and you could even be at risk for identity theft.
One consumer reported the following experience: “I gave my name, address, and social security number to obtain my credit score from this website. I was asked to take a screenshot of my score and send it to the same address that emailed me the link. Afterward, I was sent an email with a showing time, but the house number was not listed on this email or on the listing on Craigslist.” Afterward, the consumer was unable to reach anyone about the apartment. Their calls and emails went unanswered.
How to avoid credit check rental scams
Be wary of lower-than-usual prices. If the rent for an apartment is well below the going market rate, consider it a red flag. Scammers love to draw people in with claims that sound too good to be true.
Do some research. Search the listing online, as well as the associated phone number and email address. If you find another listing for the same property in a different city, you’ve spotted a scam. Reverse image searches can be helpful, too, as can searching the alleged landlord’s name along with the word “scam.” These searches only take a few minutes and are well worth the effort.
Always see the property in person. Many rental scams involve listings for properties that don’t exist. Something is fishy if the renter refuses to let you know where the apartment is before you complete a credit check or pay them a deposit. Be wary, too, if you are given the address of a home with a for sale sign in the yard. You might not be in contact with the actual owners.
Verify the property owner’s information. Contact a licensed real estate agent to see who owns a property or check the county property appraiser’s website. Ask the landlord for a copy of their ID to verify they are who they claim to be before you offer up sensitive personal information like your social security number for a credit check. If the landlord refuses or gets upset, you could be dealing with a scammer.
Be cautious about credit check websites. If you need a credit check, always use reputable sources, such as those recommended by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
For more information
Visit the BBB Moving HQ for more tips and advice. Learn more about common rental scams in this BBB Study. Watch out for a similar scam where the “landlord” claims they are out of town and unable to show the property.
If you spot a rental scam, blow the whistle! Report your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker to help build consumer awareness and frustrate scammers’ schemes.