Use Caution to Protect Your Money and Your Identity
Nashville, TN – The population boom in cities like Nashville has many consumers turning to online housing websites such as Craigslist to find an apartment or rental home.
While these popular sites offer convenience for housing seekers, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs warns that they can often be a playground for identity thieves and scammers.
While scamming tactics are constantly changing, the Division of Consumer Affairs offers the following guidelines to help consumers identify and avoid potentially fraudulent online housing listings:
- As a general rule, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your instincts. If a listing offers an unbelievable price for a nice apartment in a trendy part of town, it’s most likely a scam. Be wary of con artists trying to claim that the good deal is merely the result of a sudden job relocation or out of the country emergency.
- If the property owner won’t agree to meet with you in person, it’s a bad sign. Try to always do business face-to-face. Long-distance scammers will often promise a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or an “agent” working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys. Don’t send money to them overseas. If you can’t meet in person, see the apartment, or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it’s for rent, and that it is what was advertised. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the owner and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
- Beware of requests to wire money or provide personal information. It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. That’s true even if they send you a contract first. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back. An agent or landlord shouldn’t ask for personal information, such as a date of birth, bank account number, Social Security number, PayPal information, or a phone verification code before you see a property.
- Do Your Research.
Read the listing carefully. Check for typos, grammatical errors, and improper wording as these could indicate a scam. Research everything the advertisement mentions, including the address and any names.
If it’s an apartment, investigate the company that owns and manages the building. If you’re trying to lease a sublet, talk to the management company first. If a listing seems suspicious, try copying and pasting some of the phrases into an online search engine to if there’s an association with any scam alerts.
If you encounter a fake or suspicious online housing listing, report it to the site and to your local law enforcement agency.
For more consumer tips, visit www.tn.gov/consumer.
About the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance
TDCI is charged with protecting the interests of consumers while providing fair, efficient oversight and a level field of competition for a broad array of industries and professionals doing business in Tennessee. Our divisions include the Athletic Commission, Consumer Affairs, Tennessee Corrections Institute, Emergency Communications Board, Fire Prevention, Insurance, Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, Peace Officers Standards and Training, Regulatory Boards, Securities, and TennCare Oversight.
To check a license of a professional regulated by the Department, go to http://verify.tn.gov/.