Online rental property listings are a popular target for scammers. While applying online is convenient, there are simple steps to keep you and your money safe during your search.
Finding a new home can be a daunting prospect for many renters. There’s a lot to think about: location, the number of bedrooms, whether your new place will be close to decent coffee or come with good public transport access.
The last thing you want to worry about is whether the place is real or the landlord exists!
In today’s digitally-dependent landscape, rental scams are a fact of life. But the thought of online scammers should not scare you from applying for your new home. Rent.com.au offers these tips to help protect yourself online:
How to spot a dodgy rental property listing
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is
A couple of red flags to keep an eye out for:
- Rents that sit significantly below the going rate for the area;
- No requests for a rental bond/rent in advance deposit;
- The inclusion of all utilities (it happens, but it’s rare).
Don’t let that let you become jaded – there are good deals to be had everywhere. Just perform due diligence when you’re on the rental search, and you should be fine.
The ad has no photos or property address listed
Be wary of rental listings with no pictures or a property address. Not every ad that goes up without these details will be a scam, but make sure you ask for more information about the home before sending any money or signing any documents.
Ensure you’ve also personally inspected the property before sending any money or signing a lease.
Is the address legitimate?
Use tools like Google Maps and Rent.com.au’s Map Search to check the property’s address. You can verify the address and look at the property on Street View to weed out a potential scam listing using a legitimate address but one that’s not a rental building.
Check for suspicious contact details
Does an agency manage the rental? Search for the property manager’s name online, or contact their office. Type their office details or the agency name into Google to find their office details. If the listing includes contact information with a string of unintelligible characters or uses non-standard English, be careful. Scammers will often steal the names of legitimate agents, so it’s a good idea to contact the agency yourself if you’re unsure.
Are they asking you to go to an external website?
Tread with extreme caution if the advertiser asks you to go to another property website to ‘securely’ make the payment.
The landlord claims to be ‘out of town’
This kind of wording in the property description or on emails is often a good sign you’re dealing with a scammer. Not many landlords or property managers will head off on an overseas vacation while trying to lease a property.
If you can’t see the property in person, meet the landlord or sign any document before exchanging money, don’t do it! Owners who claim they can’t show you the rental because they’re busy travelling for work may be overseas scammers.
They’re using a wire transfer
Wire transfers are a glaring sign of a rental scam. If the contact asks you to wire money for a security deposit or application fee, beware! Wiring money is the same thing as sending cash, and there is no way to get it back once it’s gone.
They’re asking you for money before you’ve seen the property
Renting a home from someone you’ve never met is a risky move. If you’re hunting for a rental, always ask to see the property first. Do your best to meet the property manager/landlord before you hand over money for a rental bond or rent in advance.
Moving out of state or away from your local area? Ask someone you know to check out the place on your behalf.
Avoid scams that pretend to be from Rent.com.au
Phishing is a widespread form of online fraud. It’s where scammers will try to convince you to hand over your details by posing as a legitimate and trusted company, usually by email.
There are some simple things you can look out for if you receive an email from Rent.com.au that you think is fraudulent:
- As a renter, any emails you receive from Rent.com.au will likely come from [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected] Always check the spelling of the email you receive.
- Rent.com.au will never not request credit card information via email.
- Look at the template the email has arrived on. Does it look similar to other communications you’ve received from Rent.com.au? Check the footer of the email and see if there are clear links to pages on Rent.com.au.
- If we ask you to follow a link in an email, we will always direct you to a site that starts with www.rent.com.au or www.rentpay.com.au. Always double-check the spelling; scammers will sometimes try to use similar versions.
- We will never ask you to change your password on an email unless you have specifically requested your password to be changed from the Rent.com.au website.
If you encounter a scam listing or are suspicious about an encounter you’ve had online, contact Rent.com.au at [email protected] or call 1300 736 810.
Lauren Vardy is the Content Manager at Rent.com.au, Australia's largest company dedicated to renters (ASX:RNT). Lauren has worked with Rent.com.au since 2015 and manages the Rent.com.au Blog. Formerly a journalist with Fairfax Media and Rural Press, Lauren has worked with multiple media groups in Australia and internationally on a freelance basis through publications including the Esperance Express, Southeast Asia Globe, Colosoul Magazine, The Sunday Times, and more.