The rental market is exploding right now. We’ve heard about renters waking up at the crack of dawn to get an application in first, getting put on a waitlist 20 people deep, and outbidding other renters for an apartment in a prime location.

During times when rentals are a hot commodity, there will inevitably be a few people who try to capitalize. We affectionately refer to them as scammers, and they can end up costing renters a lot of time and money.

So how do you steer clear of people who are working the system and want to rip you off? By looking for these telltale signs of a fake rental listing:

A weird email domain

Around 95% of the rental listings on Rentler are created by users with either a Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo email address. Email domains that match the name of the apartment complex are also common, but if you see an email address like [email protected] it’s probably a fake. We’re not saying you should always dismiss listings with an unrecognizable @ address, but you should be cautious if you see an email domain you’ve never heard of.

An overseas landlord

If you contact someone about a listing and they respond with a convoluted story about how they live overseas and rely on a third-party to collect money or ask if they can mail you the keys once a lease is signed, odds are it’s not a real listing. If you aren’t sure if the landlord is the real deal or not, ask to set up a video call.

An unlikely lease

Before you start searching listings, do a little research to determine typical rent prices in the area. If you see listings that are way too good to be true…they probably are. Anything too low or too high can signify a fake listing. You should also keep an eye out for lease terms that seem unlikely, like places that don’t require a deposit or have an open lease length.

A sketchy payment system

Cashier’s checks, wired payments, or cash payments upfront are all huge red flags. So are other other unusual situations involving the transfer of funds, like if a potential landlord asks you to pay for a background check by sending a prepaid Visa gift card (yep, this has actually happened).

An incomplete picture

Even if all the details sound legitimate, keep an eye out for listings that don’t have any pictures of the actual apartment for rent. Commonly, scammers will upload photos of the outdoor space around a rental or interior photos that look completely different from what’s described.

Amanda Mears
Amanda has worked as a journalist, an SEO copywriter, and a social media specialist. Her aim as a Four Walls contributor is to provide something worth reading and create a community for people who lease and love it. She’s also a real person, not just a mysterious internet writer, who loves silversmithing, podcast-binging, and trying to figure out how to fix her rented apartment’s bad linoleum floor (see, just like you!)