Just like most things in life, if a roommate search ad sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
While it’s by no means a new trend, we’re seeing a resurgence of potential roommates questioning whether or not those awesome-sounding rental listings could be a scam. Those listings are usually for fictional rooms or apartments and the intent of the posting is either to swindle you out of some sort of credit check fee that never takes place or even steal your identity.
With that in mind, here are a few warning signs that will help you determine if an ad seems questionable.
- Sounds Great, But Why Aren’t There Any Photos, or an Address?
Many listings don’t set alarms bells ringing immediately. For instance, take a look at this listing:
$800 / 3 bedroom, 3-bathroom apartment with many amenities
- Brand new flooring on first floor
- Big kitchen, fully equipped
- Patio for sitting out and grilling
- Walk-in loft for additional storage
- Washer/dryer for communal use
- Formal dining room
- Excellent roommates already living here
- Everything covered in the rent
- Workout facility across the roads
- Pets welcome
- No smoking
This sounds like a decent deal when conducting a roommate search, right? In fact, it’s a steal. The property has everything you could need. But, where are the photos to boast about these features? What area is the apartment in?
- Watch Out for the Names During Your Roommate Search
You’ll notice the listing doesn’t include a phone number so the only way to get more information is to contact the poster via email. While you can’t really tell by email, when the other person responds and it looks as though they’re using a pseudonym that’s gone through a consonant grinder (think something like “[email protected]”) you’re probably dealing with someone using an auto-generated email account to make things harder to trace.
- Only $800/month for All That?
The posting sounds great, and, surprise, surprise, it gets better when the poster replies to your email. He/she tells you that the water, garbage and trash are paid by them. They let you know the security deposit can be paid in a few installments if it’s easier for you because they know money can be tight. They boast about the apartment allowing pets and that the deposit per pet is a one-off payment. They’re also happy to waiver the application fee.
How often have you really come across landlords willing to let you pay a security deposit in installments? Or those that are quite happy paying for everything. Chances are, this person is trying to trick you out of your hard-earned money.
- What About the Credit Check?
And then the email from the poster continues along the lines of being happy to show you the room at a particular time and date, provided that you complete a free credit report to ensure your eligibility. He/she tells you that they have so many people applying for rooms that they need to ensure they are qualified renters before even showing the property. You’re told that it ensures neither of you will be wasting your time.
You are even told that it’s okay if you don’t have a great credit rating, but just make sure you don’t have several evictions on record.
While credit checks for rentals aren’t unheard of, the great lengths these scammers go to, to assure you it’s alright if you have bad credit just goes to show they are preying on people who are in need of somewhere to live.
- What About That Lack of Address?
You may notice by now you’ve gone through the ad and emails and there’s never been mention of an address. The scammer tells you that they stopped giving out the address before being able to show them as the last time they did it the property was vandalized but they will send you the address as soon as you have replied and go on to assure you that it is a safe neighborhood where he/she has lived for a few years.
You’re then asked to click a link as soon as possible that will take you to a secure website where you can complete the free credit report in 30 seconds. Once completed, they will call you as soon as they receive the information from the credit company.
This is complete nonsense. Sure, vandals attack vacant homes, but packs of delinquents scanning through roommate search ads for street addresses of unoccupied properties? Not very likely.
There are millions of reputable roommates and landlords out there looking to rent a room out. Know the warning signs and you’ll be able to sift through the questionable ads and head straight for the trustworthy ones.