Here is how you can avoid a rental scam

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With nearly every rental search starting online these days, it’s a foregone conclusion that scam artists would try to take advantage of unsuspecting customers. When you combine bogus listings with rental brokers attempting to execute a bait-and-switch with rentals of poorer quality or greater rent, it’s difficult to tell which ones are genuine.

Look for watermarks

Proceed with caution if the rental listing’s photographs have a watermark – which is meant to identify the photo’s owner. Scammers have been known to steal images from the local multiple listing service, where real estate agents advertise houses for sale. When an MLS watermark appears on a photo, the person who posted the rental doesn’t have access to the original picture since they aren’t affiliated with the property.

No specific details

Although not everyone can draft a rental description, if fundamental data appear confusing or illogical, it’s likely because the individual who listed the property has never seen it. It’s possible that the poster isn’t familiar with the area or doesn’t expect you to be. For example, omitting details on utilities or describing an attraction that’s more than a mile away as being within walking distance can indicate that the poster isn’t familiar with the area or doesn’t expect you to be.

No visit to the place

If you contact someone about an internet rental ad and they don’t immediately offer to show you the available space or at the very least discuss alternatives for a virtual or video tour, take it as an indication that they aren’t affiliated with the property. Scammers may pose as a tenant looking for a sublet or lease with a small-time landlord in order to get financial information. It might be a fraud if they show little interest in knowing more about the property or going to see it first.

No background information

You need a landlord who is looking for trustworthy renters. If a fictitious landlord invites you to sign a lease with only email correspondence and no information about your financial stability, he or she is most likely searching for a one-time payment and may disappear before you relocate.

Signing the contract

To prevent being duped into paying a fee for an apartment that was erroneously promoted, don’t sign anything until you’ve visited the unit that was offered.

According to experts, unscrupulous brokers will have you sign a contract stating that you owe a finder’s fee for whatever apartment you select to rent that they show you. You could like it in the end, but it wasn’t the location you were looking for, to begin with. You’re there on false pretenses in general.

Low price

Many victims will be lured in by con artists and unscrupulous brokers who offer rent that is almost too good to be true. “The pricing is incredibly excellent, and then it turns out it doesn’t even exist,” adds Gupta.

If you’re looking for a rental in a specific neighborhood and come across one that’s a few hundred dollars less than the others, continue with caution. It’s most likely a fake listing or fake rental pricing designed to entice you in.