Winter participants traveling to the US often stay in ski towns during their program. While these locations are desirable places to live, their popularity also means housing scams abound. We want our participants and recruiting partners to be careful when arranging housing. Here are some tips to protect yourself from USA.gov
Rental scams happen when either a property owner or potential tenant misrepresent themselves. Rental scams also misrepresent the terms and availability of a rental property. Fake ads and fake responses to rental ads can hurt both tenants and property owners.
Scams Targeting Renters
Report Rental Scams
Report a rental scam to your state consumer protection or local law enforcement.
If you found the rental ad online, report the scam to the website where it was posted. Also, file a report with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.
How to Protect Yourself
Be suspicious that the property or transaction could be a scam if:
- The advertised price is much lower than that of similar properties
- Ads for the property have grammatical and spelling errors, or overuse capital letters
- The ad uses uncommon spellings of words, like “favour” instead of “favor”
- You can only work with an agent. The agent says that the owner who is too busy, out of the country, or otherwise unavailable to handle the rental.
- The owner or agent requires you to sign the lease before you see the rental property
- The owner or agent isn’t able to let you enter the home or apartment or charges you a fee to view it
- The owner or agent uses high-pressure sales tactics. They may urge you to rent quickly before someone else gets the property
- Learn the basics of how rental listing scams work.
- Get the terms of your rental, including fees, rent, and maintenance in writing.
- Get a copy of the lease, signed by both you and the property owner/manager.
- Do a search on the owner, real estate management company, and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
- Visit real estate websites. Check out if the home you want to rent is also listed in another city. A scammer could have copied the photo or description of another rental to use in their ad.
- Don’t wire money as a deposit or payment of first and last month’s rent. Wiring money is the same as giving cash; you can’t get a refund, even if you find out the offer was a fraud.
- Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics.
- Don’t pay a security deposit, fee, or first month’s rent before you’ve signed a lease.
- Don’t rent a property that you are unable to see before signing the agreement.
- Don’t send money for a rental overseas.
- Don’t give your personal information or Social Security number to a property owner, without verifying their identity.
American employers are usually happy to assist their exchange visitors with vetting housing listings. Contact your employer if you need help confirming a local listing or advertisement.
Exchange visitors can also contact IENA with any questions or concerns about housing.