So, you’re moving out and you found the perfect starter apartment! Your excitement is quickly followed by dismay as you realize the listing isn’t real. Scammers often pretend to be landlords, using fake photos to lure victims into sending them money. You might be wondering what your next steps look like, and we’re here to help.
First, contact your local police department’s non-emergency line. Depending on how much information you have about the scammer, law enforcement may be able to help you. Next, visit FightCybercrime.org for support. We have an extensive range of resources to help you in the face of fraud and scams. You can find several avenues to help you report the crime, recover your losses, and reinforce your cybersafety.
Remember, cybercrime can happen to anyone. Going forward, be sure to look for these red flags:
- Don’t send money to someone you have not met in person. If you are asked to wire transfer a security deposit or the first month’s rent, it’s most likely a scam.
- Don’t sign anything until you’ve seen the apartment, met the landlord/leasing office staff, and feel confident in the legitimacy of the listing.
- If the price seems too good to be true OR you’ve seen the same apartment listed at a different price on another site, find another option.
- If the photos have an MLS watermark*, this could indicate that the person posting the photos does not have legal rights to use them and is stealing photos from a legitimate listing to scam you.
If you have already sent money, contact your financial institution to report any fraudulent charges on your account. They may be able to help you recover your losses or freeze your accounts if necessary. Report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). This helps the FBI/IC3 collect and distribute information to help consumers avoid becoming victimized by cybercrime. Sharing your experience with law enforcement will help educate others and create a more cyber-safe environment for all.
This blog was written by Taryn Porter, a past CSN employee.