Summertime is always a popular season to move into a new place, so as the warmer months approach, BBB serving Northern Indiana warns of scams to watch out for.

Many renters are in a hurry to complete the move and may not take the time to do important research to ensure their deal is not too good to be true.

Rental scams begin with consumers responding to a listing for what looks to be a beautiful, low rent space that fits their needs. While these listings look legitimate — con artists often use real pictures from real listings to look convincing to interested parties. Once connected, the “landlord” tells the consumer that they are unavailable to show the property and that the renter needs to move fast on the property, or it will be rented to someone else. To avoid missing out, the scammer will ask for a security deposit and/or first month’s rent to reserve the property.

In some scenarios, the scammer may say a renter can see the property after they pay the security deposit. The scammer may even request that the consumer complete a rental application and background check before viewing the property, which may make the transaction seem more legitimate. Unfortunately, the completed rental application also includes personal information, such as a Social Security number and date of birth, that the scammer can later use to steal the consumer’s identity.

No matter which form this fraud takes, the end result is always the same — the scammer takes the money and/or the information from the application and disappears because the property never really existed. Rental scams cost would-be renters an average of $996 in 2019, according to BBB’s ScamTracker.

Use BBB’s tips to avoid rental scams:

• Research the rental company at BBB.org. Read reviews about the company to see if there are any complaints alleging a scam, especially before submitting a deposit or giving out personal information.

• Watch out for deals that are too good to be true. Scammers lure consumers in by promising low rent, extra amenities, and fantastic location. If the price seems much better than offered elsewhere, it may be a scam.

• Search online for comparable properties. Do a quick search for the listing, scammer’s email address, or phone number. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that should be a huge red flag.

• See the property in person. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen. If the property owner makes excuses for why you can’t visit an apartment or house, do not proceed with the transaction.

• Slow down. Many movers are in such a hurry to move, they don’t take time to do the proper research or notice the red flags. No matter the rush, always make sure that you are confident in the decision you are making.

If you spot a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your story can help other consumers avoid similar scams.

Marjorie Stephens in the executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana.

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