How to spot hard-to-spot rental scams

Finding an apartment or house to rent that’s safe, affordable, and near amenities you want can be hard for anyone. Folks in the LGBTQ+ community often use community groups on social media to find housing rentals, and people often assume that what’s posted is vetted and safe for community members. But scammers post in these groups, too. Here are ways to spot and avoid rental scams.

We’ve heard about these rental scams happening two ways: scammers use legitimate rental listings but claim to be the landlord (but they’re not), or they make up listings for places that either aren’t for rent or don’t actually exist. Whether they use a real address with real pictures or make something up, it can be hard to spot a scam listing — especially if you’re coming from outside the area. In both cases, the scammer will rush you into paying an application fee, deposit, and/or first month’s rent, and promise to get you the keys right away — but instead, they’ll disappear. And you’ll be left without your money and with no place to move into.

To avoid rental scams:

  • Search online for the rental’s address, plus the name of the property owner or rental company listed. Do other ads come up for the same address? Maybe with a different owner or rental company name? Those are signs of a scam.
  • Check out the rental company. Search their website to see if the property is listed there, too. If it isn’t, the ad you found may be a scam.
  • Don’t pay for a property you’ve never seen. And never pay someone you’ve never met in person. If you can’t see the apartment or sign a lease before you pay, see if a friend can see it for you, or keep looking.

Also, nobody legit will ever say you can only pay by wire transfergift card, or cryptocurrency. That’s a sure sign of a scam.

Spot a rental scam? Report it to the FTC at

By Ari Lazarus, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC, March 21, 2024