Pandemic Boosts the Popularity of Online Rental Scams

Dated: November 17 2020

Views: 23

By Kerry Smith

More crooks scrape your for-sale or for-rent ads, change contact info and try to scam renters out of money – a crime tactic that works even better during the pandemic.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The number of online rental scams has increased since the pandemic started, largely because the inability to see an apartment or home before moving in raises fewer red flags in the era of social distancing.

Local authorities, Better Business Bureau’s local offices, and real estate companies warn renters looking for apartments to be extra diligent in their search and educate themselves on how to protect against rental scams – but the scammers still sometimes succeed.

The scam isn’t difficult to pull off. Criminals find active listings for homes either for sale or for rent and copy them. They then re-post the ads as rentals and change a few details, such as a contact name for more information. In general, they post a rental price notably below comparable area rentals to create angst in excited renters who want to move quickly. In fact, a price that’s too good to be true is the first red flag renters should consider.

Signs that an ad might be a scam include: typos or excessive punctuation, a request to wire money up-front without signing a contract and/or the absence of any type of screening process. In some cases, the scammers aren’t trying to get a deposit or rent upfront; instead, they require money for a pre-payment credit check, which should raise suspicion if it gets paid through a referral link.

To avoid scams, renters should look for verified listings, which come directly from property managers or owners. Additionally, renters can do a reverse Google search using one of the photos from the listing. The search results should show any other websites where that image appears.

Even during the pandemic, it’s important to visit the apartment in-person, which can be a self-guided tour. Many property managers will also conduct virtual apartment tours for prospective renters, but even then, it’s still advisable to visit the apartment and community in person.

To help other renters and the community, renters who discover fraudulent listings should report them to the proper authorities who can investigate and resolve the issue, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, as well as local law enforcement agencies. also created a guide for renters navigating the sea of online real estate ads.

“The concerns renters have when navigating through rental ads – especially now as apartment-hunting is largely conducted online – prompted us to create this comprehensive guide with all they need to know about scams,” says Esther Bonardi, vice president of marketing at Yardi.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

Be Safe! Don't Get Scammed, reach out to a license Realtor like myself. I will help you with all of your rental, buying and selling needs. The right property and right deal awaits you in South Florida, reach out to Realtor Roxanne Dixon from Dunhill 100 at I have over 8 years of Real Estate Experience. Please let me work for you!

Blog author image

Roxanne Dixon

Highly motivated Real Estate Agent with over 8 years of diverse experience in residential(Purchase/Sale), commercial, and investment(Annual Rental, Airbnb, Property Management) estate. Strong analytic....

Latest Blog Posts

Another Reason to Move to Fla.? Home Heating Prices

The usual move-to-Fla. reasons – sun, beaches and no income tax – omit one item: home-heating costs. A harsh NE winter this year could push natural gas prices 50% higher.NEW YORK –

Read More

More New Homes Are Being Built with 4-Plus Bedrooms

NAHB: Since COVID-19, more Americans want bigger homes: The share of single-family homes started with 4 or more bedrooms rose from 42.6% in 2019 to 45.2% in 2020.WASHINGTON – More Americans

Read More

Homebuying, Stress and the Things Couples Fight About

Couples may happily disagree in life, but when they have to share a home the differences can come to the forefront. The top reason for a fight? A home’s price.NEW YORK – Homebuying is

Read More

Foreign Buyers May Return in Nov. as U.S. Eases Restrictions

Travelers must be fully vaccinated and have a recent negative COVID-19 test if flying to the U.S., but the change could allow more buyers to physically tour homes.WASHINGTON – President Joe

Read More