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Department staff is available to assist with any questions at (800) 922-1594 (toll free in SC) or 803-734-4200 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding State holidays. You can also email general questions to scdca@scconsumer.gov.

Rental Scams

Be on the Lookout for Fake Rental Listings

Rent SignMoving to a new city or just need a new place to live ASAP? You find a great place with all the bells and whistles for half the price! This deal is too good to pass up, so you reach out to the owner or landlord. All you have to do is put down a deposit and the house is yours. But, before you know you’ve been duped, the scammer has your deposit and you never hear from them again. As you shop around for a new place, be on guard against scammers who list fake places to live. Scammers advertise rentals that either don’t exist or aren’t available to trick you into sending money and giving over personal information.

Fraudulent rental listings typical happen in two ways:

Hijacked Ads

Some scammers hijack a real rental or real estate listing by copying it and placing an edited ad on another site.
The edited ad may even use the name of the person who posted the original ad. In other cases, scammers have hijacked
the email accounts of property owners or have gained access to lockboxes used to show the property.

Phantom Rentals

Other fraudsters make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t even exist. They try to lure you in with the
promise of low rent, immediate availability or great amenities. Their goal is to get your money and/or information before
you find out.

Rental Red Flags

They ask you to wire money. If someone asks you to pay in an unusual form of payment like wire transfer, gift cards, cryptocurrency, or prepaid debit cards, it’s most definitely a scam. There’s never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, first month’s rent, or vacation rental fee. These forms of payment are like sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back.

They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met, toured the place or signed a lease. No legitimate rental company or landlord will ask you to pay upfront for an apartment or house you haven’t seen. You also should not be asked to provide payment prior to finalizing a lease, aside from an application fee. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go for you to verify the listing is legitimate.

You find the listing under different names. Just like it’s important to see the property yourself, it’s also important to search it online. If the same ad is listed on multiple sites, verify the details are consistent across listings. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, it may be a scam. You can also reverse image search the listings photos to see if any unusual listings pop up.

The landlord is “out-of-town” or out of the country. You want to meet with the landlord to tour the property or finalize the contract to get your keys. The person you’ve been speaking with suddenly informs you they’re unavailable and you can tour the place yourself with a key from under the mat. If you are looking to finalize a contract, they may tell you they will be using someone else to do it and get you the keys. Some scammers will go as far as making a fake key for a property.

 

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To report a scam, visit SCDCA's Scams page. For more information, visit https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/rental-listing-scams.