How to not get in the middle!

As you begin researching new apartments or homes, please educate yourself on listing scams and online fraud. We urge you to be vigilant in researching the legitimacy of any potential listings and perform all appropriate due diligence. You can read below to learn more or the FTC has provided information about scams here.

How Do Rental Listing Scams Work?

Is someone asking you to send them money via Western Union, Moneygram, or Prepaid Visa card? Have the owners moved to another state and can’t show you the property? Found a deal that’s too good to turn down? These are possible signs of rental listing scams used to defraud users into wiring money or giving up personal information.

Scammers use a variety of tools and methods to post fraudulent listings on many internet listing sites. One method includes manually listing available properties by copying existing listings and posting them with new prices. They also take existing for-sale properties and post it as a rental listing. Lastly, they use listing management tools and syndicate the fraud across many different sites.

Once you’ve contacted a scammer, they usually ask for a few things — information, urgency, and money through Western Union, Moneygram, or a Prepaid Visa card. Stop there. Flag the listing on Trulia beneath the title and property address and continue your search.

What is Trulia Doing to Remove Fraud?

At Trulia, we understand how important it is to have a higher standard of excellence in eliminating fraud. Thus, we have taken immediate action and continue to enhance our process in order to improve our listing quality and eliminate fraud. Although some fraudulent listings can make it through our fraud filters, many scams are detected before being displayed. While we need to keep the specifics of our initiatives confidential in order to outsmart scammers, we’ve listed some of our public initiatives here:

  • Trulia has an entire team dedicated to reviewing rental properties and double checking listing feeds.
  • There is an automated algorithm that scores listings based on historical data and removes listings most likely to be fraudulent.
  • New accounts and listings are verified to have a valid U.S. phone number and IP address.
  • In some regions, Trulia has begun to accept verified listing sources only and eliminated single property submissions.
  • Fraud warnings are placed on each property detail page and throughout Trulia to educate consumers about possible warnings.
  • Every time a lead is sent to a landlord or property manager, both parties receive a confirmation email pointing to information about possible listing fraud.
  • Properties that are flagged as fraudulent on Trulia are reviewed by Trulia’s fraud team and removed if determined to be a scam.

How Can I Spot and Avoid Rental Scams?

Below is a list of best practices on spotting and avoiding scams. Renter beware. Be vigilant in protecting your private information and review these tips:

  1. The easiest sign of a rental scam is when someone asks you to wire money via Western Union, Moneygram, or Prepaid Visa card. Scammers usually ask for a deposit or first month’s rent before you even see the property. Don’t send money for whatever reason.
  2. The owner is out of the country on a mission, job opportunity, or military service. Always meet the landlord or agent in-person and at the property. If they can’t meet you there or show you the property, then it’s possibly a scam. Good idea is to always have a friend or family member with you.
  3. The listing is significantly less than nearby similar properties. Beware. If it seems too good to be true, then chances are that it’s a scam.
  4. Emails from scammers are often littered with grammatical mistakes and typos. If the email is difficult to read, lengthy, or includes a sad story, then it’s possibly a scam.
  5. Research the email address and phone number of the landlord or owner on Google. You might find that someone else has already posted a report on this individual.
  6. Don’t fill out an application until you’ve seen the property. Some apartment communities will offer legitimate applications via a property’s website, but don’t submit an application with personal information until you’ve verified the property exists.
  7. Never, under any circumstances, send money to anyone without securing a lease and confirming the property manager has legal right to rent the property.

What Can I do if I Fall Victim of Online Fraud?

If you believe you were a victim of fraud, please contact your local authorities, the FTC, and the IC3. Flag the listing for removal by our fraud team if it hasn’t already been removed.

Source: Rental Listing Scams – Read Before You Search – trulia