3 Musts to Protecting Yourself from Rental Scams

Rental fraud is everywhere. If you own an investment property and advertise to popular web sites like CraigsList, changes are that a scammer has taken your ad and re-purposed it as their own.

  • Wednesday, July 31, 2013


New Albany, OH

Rental fraud is everywhere. If you own an investment property and advertise to popular web sites like CraigsList, changes are that a scammer has taken your ad and re-purposed it as it’s own. As a landlord myself, I was the victim of this occuring with a property I own in Northwestern Pennsylvania. I posted a beautiful ad to CraigsList with pictures, a thorough description, and even links to a virtual tour of a house for rent. The rent price was $1,200 per month and it was in a very convenient location. About a week after I posted the ad to CraigsList, I received a phone call from a local college student:

    • Interested Renter: “Do you own the property at ……….?”
    • Landlord: “Yes, I do – are you interested in submitting a rental application?”
    • Interested Renter: "Well, possibly. I have a problem. There are 2 different ads floating around on CraigsList with drastically different price points. What is the rent price?”
    • Landlord: “It’s $1,200 per month, plus a month security deposit up front and $500 non-refundable for any pets you might have.”
    • Interested Renter: “Funny because another ad that looks just like your house says that its renting for $650.00 a month and all I need to do is mail them a check. The landlord told me they were out of town and will show it to me once they receive the deposit check and are back.”
    • Landlord : “Thanks for letting me know this! It seems that someone scammed my ad on CraigsList. They were dumb enough to post the ad in the same city as the original ad. Most scammers are a bit smarter than this!”
    • Interested Renter: “Can I still apply for the property? I really like the house.”
    • Landlord: “You certainly can. There is an APPLY NOW button on the ad. You should always look for a ‘VerticalRent Verified’ seal at the bottom of ads on CraigsList. The ‘VerticalRent Verified’ seal is an identify verification measure that will give you confidence about the property you are apply for. We use VerticalRent and are a trusted landlord.”
    • Interested Renter: “Thanks for your time. I will apply online at AppSingular.com"

I was lucky. An interested renter made me aware of the scam, so I quicky took action and contacted the ‘scammer’ with the ad on CraigsList with a cease and desist letter. Most of these low lifes don’t realize the gravity of what they are doing. They are simply trying to make a quick buck and move onto their next scam. As a renter, you can protect yourself from scams like this by following these 3 simple steps:

  1. Ask the landlord to verify with VerticalRent. Sign up for an AppSingular (www.appsingular.com) account, create your tenant application, purchase your credit report, and share it with the landlord via the CraigsList email address. Don’t worry, the landlord won’t be able to see your tenant application + credit report until they verify with VerticalRent. What is verification? It’s a simple action where VerticalRent asks the landlord for his/her social security number and returns a random set of questions that the landlord would only know. Chances are that a fradulent landlord will not expose themselves by identifying their true self.
  2. If you’re still “uneasy” after asking the landlord to verify and applying via AppSingular, take it one step further by verifying the landlord’s identity at the county assessor’s office.
  3. Ask the neighbors how long the rental property has sat vacant and who they think the owner of the property is or is not. Most of the time, the neighbors will have an idea of the property. Most scams are centered around residential houses that are for rent. You would be surprised at how knowledgeable the neighbors would be in helping you sniff out a scam artist.
  4. As a renter, you need to be careful with hitting that “apply now” button. Don’t give up too much information unless you know that the landlord is VerticalRent Verified and a legimate landlord!

    About VerticalCloud

    At VerticalCloud, we provide a state-of-the-art cloud-based platform for a variety of vertical markets. AppSingular is a niche product created for renters seeking a simple yet powerful solution to ease the administrative burden of submitting rental applications for renters and streamlining the move-in process for landlords. For more information, visit https://www.appsingular.com (for tenants) or https://www.verticalrent.com (for landlords).

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