Study Tackles Rental Fraud

August 10, 2018
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Photo: Unsplash/Rainy Lake

Finding a home to rent may be easier with the advent of digital platforms streamlining the process, but hazards like rental scams remain prevalent. 

More than 43 percent of renters have encountered fraudulent listings, per a new study by rental listing site Apartment List. Igor Popov, chief economist at Apartment List, tells CNBC, "I think what really surprised us was just the prevalence of different variety of scams out there," adding,  "It is surprising how many people have fallen for these types of scams. Over 5.2 million renters out there have either put down an application fee, or a security deposit, or maybe even first month's rent, usually sight unseen." The renter rate grew to 37 percent in 2016 from 33 percent a decade before, per Zillow data, and in 39 out of the 50 biggest U.S. cities, the majority of residents are renters. 

The most common scams include the "bait-and-switch," which is when a different property is advertised than the one that is actually available. The scammer tries to collect a deposit or get a lease signed for this property. Another is the "hijacked ad," which can even happen on homes that are legitimately for sale. The scammer poses as a fake landlord, advertising the for-sale home, but changing the contact information. Another scam is listing a property that is already leased and then trying to collect application fees or security deposits.

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