Potential Renters Should Be Wary of Fake Landlord Scams

Potential Renters Should Be Wary of Fake Landlord Scams


Housing prices keep going up in the US, and people are scrambling to find places to stay that don’t cost too much. Landlords and real estate companies just keep hiking prices, and there’s little that the average person can do to change it. Housing is just expensive.

Some scammers have turned to this dysfunctional market to make a quick buck, too. Now, potential renters need to be on the lookout for landlord scams and real estate con artists. Here’s how these insidious scams work.

How It Works

Scammers set up their scheme in cities with a large number of foreclosures and vacant properties. For instance, many “fake landlord” schemes flourish in Detroit, where there are plenty of vacant properties owned and managed by out-of-town investors. The scammers start their scheme by scoping out properties that have lax managers and then creating duplicate keys for that property.

Then, they post listings for the residence as a rental property and wait for someone to take the bait. From this point, they act like employees of a property management company, though in reality, they’re pocketing all of the income from the scheme. 

Prosecuting the Scammers

It’s tough for law enforcement to stop these schemes because they appear genuine until the actual property owner checks in on the residence. Then, they file to evict the person who is “squatting” in the home. When the victim of the scam reaches out to their “landlord,” they find the criminal was using a fake name and temporary phone number.

As such, few of these landlord scammers are ever brought to justice. Meanwhile, their victims are left facing homelessness as the property owner kicks them out for living in their residence unlawfully. 

Avoiding the Scam

Do your homework on any property you plan to live in. If the person offering you the listing doesn’t appear anywhere online, they’re scamming you. You should ask them for a contact number for the property management company. If they’re not forthcoming with this information, look the number up online and call the company’s office.

If they’ve never heard of the “landlord,” report the person as a scammer. If you can determine the criminal is lying to you before they realize you’re onto them, you can report them to the police and hopefully have the authorities apprehend them before they’re able to disappear and run their scam on some other unsuspecting victim. Either way, report the scheme to law enforcement right away once you realize something illegal is going on.