Online rental listings are a popular target for scammers. Applying for a rental property online is convenient, but there are important steps to keep you (and your money) safe during your search.
Finding a new home is 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 a decent coffee or come with good public transport access.
The last thing you want to worry about is whether the place is real – or if 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:
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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 can include:
- 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).
That said, 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.
No specific address or photographs listed: Be wary of rental property listings that have no photographs or an address listed. Again, not every ad that goes up without these details will be a scam, but make sure you ask for more details about the home before you send any money or sign any documents first.
Ensure you have personally inspected the property before you send any money or sign any documents.
Use the map search feature: Use Rent.com.au’s Map Search to check the address you’re looking at. 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.
How to vet the landlord or agent
Suspicious contact details: If a property listing includes a contact detail with a string of unintelligible characters, or uses non-standard English, be careful.
If you’re dealing with an agent, search for their name online, or contact the office. To find that office, type their name into Google. Remember that sometimes scammers steal the names of legitimate agents, so make contact by looking up the claimed agency’s phone number yourself.
The advertiser asks you to go to another website to pay securely: If the advertiser asks you to go to another property website to ‘securely’ make the payment, treat this with extreme caution.
The landlord is ‘out of town’: This sort of wording should raise a few alarms and set you running for the hills. Not many landlords or property managers will head off on an overseas vacation while they’re busy trying to lease a property.
If you can’t see the property, meet the landlord or sign any document before you exchange money, don’t do it! Owners who claim they can’t show you rental because they’re busy travelling for work may be overseas scammers.
Using a wire transfer: This is a glaring sign of a rental scam. If the contact asks you to wire money – possibly 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 sent.
Listings asking for money before seeing the property: Renting a place you can’t see in person from someone you’ve never met is risky. If you’re hunting for a rental in your city, ALWAYS ask to see the property first. Ensure you meet the agent/landlord before you hand over any rental bond or rent in advance.
If you’re moving to another state or out of your local area, consider asking someone you know to check out the place or run a quick background check on the landlord or real estate company.
Avoid scams that pretend to be from Rent.com.au
Phishing is a widespread form of online fraud. This is where scammers will seek 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 which you think may be fraudulent:
- As a renter, any emails you receive from Rent.com.au will likely come from email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Always check the spelling of the email you receive.
- Rent.com.au does 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. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 736 810.