While the vast majority of apartment listings on Apartments.com are legitimate, you should be aware that certain individuals post apartment listings on Apartments.com for the sole purpose of scamming potential renters.
In the same manner, the vast majority of e-mail and phone leads sent to apartment managers using our Web site are from real, interested buyers. However, you should be aware that certain individuals may contact a property manager or express an interest in leasing an apartment for the sole purpose of scamming the landlord or property manager.
When using the Internet, you should always exercise caution and common sense. When using the Apartments.com Web site, you can help protect yourself by learning more about how the Apartments.com service operates and taking the precautions outlined below. If an activity seems suspicious or a transaction seems unbelievably good, you should beware.
Deceptive Phone Calls
Apartments.com has received reports of a telephone phishing scam where the scammer is able to display a number on caller ID to have come from Apartments.com when in fact it has not. In the scam, customers are asked for their credit card information. The scammer may falsely claim, for example, that there has been a billing problem and their credit card number is needed.
Apartments.com will NEVER call you regarding payment information. You should never give credit card or payment information over the phone when you receive a call. However, you should feel secure in contacting us directly to resolve any billing matters.
If you suspect a phishing attempt, you should hang up and call Apartments.com toll free at 888-658-RENT to verify the call. If you accidentally provided a credit card number to the caller please call your credit card company immediately. You may also wish to call your local law enforcement and file a complaint with the FCC at: http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm.
Deceptive E-Mails & Claims
Apartments.com merely acts as forum in which potential renters can search listings of apartments for rent and contact landlords to discuss the specifics of the apartment, arrange for a showing, and/or possibly enter into an agreement to lease the apartment. All transactions are between renters and landlords. Be aware that Apartments.com never participates in transactions between renters and landlords. Specifically, we do not lease apartments or collect payments or deposits for apartments. Finally, given the nature of our service, you should be aware that we do not and cannot verify the authenticity or legitimacy of any renter, landlord or property advertised for rent.
Consumer Alert – Fraudulent Apartments.com Emails
Recently Apartments.com has received reports of emails appearing to be sent by us stating that we have a “purchase protection” or “escrow” service to facilitate leasing transactions. These emails are fraudulent! Sending any money in response to these emails will almost always result in your losing all of it. The best thing to do if you receive one of these emails is to delete it and not reply to the sender. Under no circumstances should you ever wire money without meeting the landlord in person and physically inspecting the apartment and lease documentation. Apartments.com does not have any sort of escrow or payment protection program nor do we participate in the transaction in any way. Apartments.com never processes rents, deposits, or lease transactions directly. All transactions are between you and the landlord. Any email or individual stating otherwise is attempting to scam you. You may encounter one of these fraudulent emails after responding to an ad on Craigslist, Apartments.com, Rent.com, or other online rental listing services. Typically, the apartments are advertised at significantly below market values in order to garner interest. Remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Advice for Renters
- Avoid ads that are “too good to be true.” Ads for apartments in big cities such as New York with rents significantly below market value are almost always lures used by scam artists. Check other listings in the general area and see what the going rates for apartments are before responding.
- Always see the apartment in person before sending any money or providing personal information such as your social security number, even if it’s just to fill out an application. Under no circumstances should you do business with an overseas landlord unless you have personally verified their identity and that they actually own the apartment advertised.
- Dealing locally is best. The safest way to deal is in person and face to face. Be wary if the prospective landlord only wants to communicate via e-mail. Be more wary if the landlord is currently out of the country or resides overseas or far from where the apartment is located. Be extremely wary if the landlord flat out refuses to talk on the phone or claims they cannot talk on the phone.
- Exercise extreme caution before wiring deposits or rent payments using Western Union or MoneyGram, especially to foreign countries. Sending money in any form overseas will likely result in losing all of it. Western Union and MoneyGram are very popular for Internet scams because the funds are available instantly, untraceably and worldwide.
- Scan any attachments from landlords with anti-virus software before opening. One of the latest scams involves a “landlord” e-mailing an unsuspecting renter additional photos of the apartment for lease. However, one or more of the e-mail attachments contains a virus that can fool your Web browser to make it appear as though you’re going to a legitimate site but in fact are being sent to a site controlled by the scammer. The best way to protect yourself is by using commercial anti-virus software, keeping it up to date and by scanning all e-mail attachments before opening or double-clicking them. Commercial Web-based e-mail services such as Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail provide virus-scanning services free of charge.
Advice for Landlords and Property Managers
- Never give your credit card or payment information over the phone when you receive a call. For example, if you’re told there is a ‘billing’ problem and the caller needs to verify your information. Apartments.com will never call you regarding payment information unless you initiated the call.
- Dealing locally is best. The safest way to deal is in person and face to face. Be wary if the prospective renter only wants to communicate via e-mail. Be more wary if the prospective renter is currently out of the country or resides overseas or far from where the apartment is located. Be extremely wary if the seller flat out refuses to talk on the phone or claims they cannot talk on the phone.
- Avoid complicated payment schemes. Be suspicious of a payment process that involves many steps. One popular scam involves sending you a cashier’s check for more than the rent or deposit and asking you to wire the difference back to the prospective renter. These cashier’s checks are almost always counterfeit and your bank will hold you liable. Any overpayment you wire back to the buyer will come directly out of your pocket.
- Never accept a check for more than your standard deposit and/or prepaid rent requirements.
- Verify payment. If someone offers to send you prepaid rent or a deposit paid by a cashier’s or certified check, always verify the authenticity of the check with the issuing bank. Do not rely on the phone number printed on the check; look it up yourself. The bank can verify its routing number, describe the specific security features of its checks and even verify that there are sufficient funds to cover the check.
To report suspicious activity:
- Cease all communications with the person. You do not have to give an explanation though you can simply say you are no longer interested.
- Promptly report any suspicious activity, e-mails or Websites to Apartments.com by contacting us.
- You may also file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- If you feel you have been the victim of fraud, you should take any steps to cancel or reverse a transaction or stop payment and you should promptly report this activity to local law enforcement authorities.
Below are some items to watch for in recognizing scams:
- The contact may be unavailable to speak via phone and residing in or visiting another country.
- They’re unable to meet face-to-face before completing the transaction but will request payment (deposit, etc.) of some sort.
- The use of Western Union, MoneyGram, money order, escrow service or some other payment process is offered.
See below for an example email. Note that the actual appearance of the email may change, but the fact remains: Apartments.com does NOT participate in collecting rent payments or deposits, nor do we guarantee any transaction.
For more information, see our fraud alert.