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Posted 26 October 2023


Renter Remorse: Don’t Be Scammed

I recently was moving out of my apartment when someone came up to me and said they were there to sign the lease. I was confused, so I contacted my landlord to confirm that this person was there to move in on the same day. He informed me that someone had copied his information from his Zillow listing and put it on Facebook Marketplace. I asked the person how much money they had sent to secure the rental and they said they’d sent over $1,400 through Cash App and Zelle. 

They had been scammed.  

Scammers have targeted online realtor sites at an alarming rate, leading to many losing thousands of dollars in a short period of time. Using peer-to-peer (P2P) payments makes it harder to recover funds because those using P2P platforms technically authorize the funds transfer upon entering their and the recipient’s information. Mobile P2P apps are not federally insured by the NCUA or FDIC. For this reason, financial institutions are unable to recover the fraudulently obtained funds because the person sending the money confirmed the transaction when using the app.  

Common way fraudsters receive money from their victims is by charging an “application fee.” They ask you to “apply” online for the potential property, making them a quick $50 to $100 through the application process alone. Avoid being scammed in this way by going through reputable sources. Always be wary of who you are communicating with online and do your research! 

According to the FBI, there are many ways to avoid being a victim of renter’s fraud. Some tips include: 

  • Don’t wire funds to people you don’t know. 
  • Don’t put money toward a house or apartment you have not seen. 
  • Research public records for the actual owner of the property. 
  • Don’t fill out applications online unless told to by a reputable landlord. 
  • Know the local rental market in your area. 
  • Beware of potential fraudulent checks and don’t deposit them if you receive one. Your financial institution can assist you in verifying if the check is legitimate. Sources: 

https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/boston/news/press-releases/fbi-warns-of-spike-in-rental-and-real-estate-scams