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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > August 2022 > College students: Beware of rental scams when hunting for place to live

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College students: Beware of rental scams when hunting for place to live

Some Ohioans attending college are on the hunt for great places to rent. When searching for the perfect living pad, learn how to detect a phony rental posting designed to steal your money and leave you high-and-dry with no place to sleep.
The first steps to protecting yourself and your wallet is knowing how typical rental scams operate. In a typical rental scam, a con artist takes information from a legitimate real estate listing – such as the property’s address and photos – and posts it as an available rental through Craigslist or another website. The advertised rent is often low, and the potential renter is told to send a few hundred dollars via wire transfer or prepaid money card to secure the rental. Once the money is sent, though, it is nearly impossible to track or recover.

Other rental scams involve con artists who offer properties that have already been leased and who try to collect phony application fees, down payments, security deposits and/or the first month’s rent.

To avoid rental scams, keep the following in mind: 
  • Be skeptical of ads offering low rates on houses or apartments. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 
  • Use a search engine to look for reviews and comments about the rental company. Search the name of the company along with terms such as “complaint” or “scam” to read about other renters’ experiences with the company.
  • Search your county auditor’s website for a record of who owns the property. Be aware that scam artists may pretend to be the true owner.
  • Don’t trust potential “landlords” or property owners who say they had to leave the state or country quickly for business or missionary work. Scam artists often make such claims. 
  • Don’t send any money until you’ve seen a property in person and/or verified that the person communicating with you is truly who they claim to be. If you visit the property, look for signs indicating the name of the property owner or manager. Contact that company before signing a lease or paying any money.
  • Beware of requests for wire transfers, prepaid money cards, cryptocurrency or payment through popular peer-to-peer networks such as Zelle, Venmo or Cash App, especially if you have not seen the property. These can be preferred methods for scammers because once the money is sent, it is nearly impossible to recover.
  • Be wary if you find rental ads offering properties that are listed for sale on other websites.
  • Copy and paste an image from an online listing into a search engine to determine whether it has appeared elsewhere online.
  • Be wary of landlords or property managers who offer to rent property to you without gathering any information from you, such as your credit score or a background check. 
Real estate agents and sellers can help protect themselves and their listings by following these tips: 
  • Consider not listing the complete address of the property online. 
  • Watermark your photos. 
  • If you find a fraudulent posting based on your listing, notify the website where you found it so the post can be flagged and removed.
If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.