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Rental Fraud

What is a Rental Fraud?

Rental frauds are schemes where someone attempts to defraud you of money under the guise of offering you a rental.

Signs of Rental Fraud:
The rent is suspiciously low

If the property is listed for far less than other rentals in the surrounding area, this is a strong sign that the listing is a scam. Thoroughly vet the listing by doing your own research and comparing the advertised rent with nearby units of a similar size. If the price seems too good to be true, it very well could be a scam.

The listing details are vague

Some people aren't very good at describing rental properties well. If you notice that the basic information is unclear or seems strange, it could be because the person who wrote the description hasn't actually seen the property. Leaving out important details like utilities or saying something is close by when it's quite far away might mean the person doesn't know much about the area or thinks you won't notice.

They are "Out of the Country"

The reason many scammers give that they can't meet with you in person is they're temporarily out of the country. As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports on its website, scammers may even make it seem realistic: "It might even involve a lawyer or an 'agent' working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys," and send them to you in the mail.

The listing agent won't let you tour the property

Scammers may tell you that they are out of the country or otherwise unavailable for a tour or require you to pay a fee to see the place. These are all red flags! Never send money before taking a tour of the property!

The listing agent asks for money before you sign a lease

The listing agent may ask you to send money before you sign a lease, see the property in person or meet the agent. Committing to a rental property sight unseen is risky. You should always see the place before you put any money down. If you couldn’t make it in-person, you may want to have a video visit or have a friend visit on your behalf.

The address isn't verified

If you’re starting to suspect that there’s something fishy about a property management company, search the rental address online. Some listings may have addresses that aren’t verified or don’t exist at all. You might also find that the property is in foreclosure or that the listing agent is not actually associated with the management company.

They instruct you wire money

Any request for you to wire or to pay with gift card for the deposit for the first month’s rent or for any other reason is a clear sign of scam. Once the money has been collected, there’s no way for you to get it back, and the person you thought you were in contact with can easily disappear. 

How to Avoid Rental Scams?
Research the landlord

You can easily find out if the person is connected to the area or if they've been linked to scams before. Just do a quick Google search to check news articles, local police reports, or if anyone else has reported them as a scammer.

Verify the address

This helps you avoid a bait-and-switch from an agent who’s trying to get you to accept another apartment. Search the address online to see if the property is listed for sale by a different real estate agent or if the rental shows different contact information elsewhere, which is a sign that someone is using the property as a scam.

Check the street view of the property

When you look at the property on an online map, click on the street view option to see if the property matches the exterior photo in the listing.

Visit and tour the rental

If you do this, you're also more likely to notice other details that may be deal breakers for your next home, like an aggressive neighbor dog, a busy street or poor upkeep.

Meet in person

Many scammers are unwilling to meet in person, and if you do so for an apartment tour, you’ll be able to get proof of access to and knowledge of the property as you walk around and ask questions.

How to Report a Rental Scam?

A scam should be reported to the police. Provide a screenshot of the rental listing and any emails you exchanged with the individual. Additionally, report the listing to the website where it’s advertised, and report fraud to the FTC.


Is there a place that the students can report the scam to the school? Yes! Here are some options to contact as the first place:

Northwestern University Police Department

Report a Crime Online:

Evanston Campus: 847-491-3456.

Chicago Campus: 312-503-3456


Evanston Police Department: Non-Emergency Incident Reporting: 


OCL: send an email to and attach the documents relating to your case.