Roommate rental scam
This scam is one of many variations of fake check scams. The fraudster answers an ad claiming to be a potential roommate. The fraudster sends a check in an amount that exceeds the agreed-upon initial rent. The check is deposited into the bank and appears to clear. The funds are credited to the account. The potential roommate (Fraudster) requests the extra money, an amount paid above the agreed-upon price, be returned to him/her via wire transfer, through a digital financial transaction such as Venmo, Apple Pay, etc., or via Mobile Deposit if the account holder provided log on credentials. The excess money is returned to the potential roommate (Fraudster). On a later date, the bank notifies the student the deposited check is bogus and that the student is out of money.
A variation of the Roommate Rental Scam is when an online ad includes photos of the apartment and requested rent. The fraudster claims to be out of town and is unable to show the unit. A refundable deposit is requested to hold the unit until he/she can show you the apartment. The deposit is electronically remitted to the fraudster. The fraudster never owned the unit and the renter is out the money (Deposit).
- Trust your gut – If the apartment seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Beware of a roommate or landlord who can’t meet with you in person. If your only way to communicate with them is via email, be very wary.
- If you’re pressured into sending a deposit immediately, slow things down until you can properly research the offer.
- Do your research on the apartment and the people. Always be skeptical. Look for the rental company’s website and ensure it has accurate contact information. Then, read consumer reviews about the company on third-party websites, such as BBB.org. Also, search the business name plus the word “scam” to make sure you don’t find any reports of fraudulent business dealings.
- Search "Roommate Scams" online to learn about the most recent scams.
- Be careful with your personal details. You may need to fill out a contract with personal information, but make sure you are dealing with a legitimate, professional company before you hand over sensitive information.
- Be wary of people who contact you on messaging apps. Legitimate businesses may use messaging apps to interact with you, but it’s unlikely they will contact you out of the blue this way. Even if you do speak with a business through a messaging app, make sure they have a website and working contact information.
- Always pay with a credit card. It’s much easier to dispute fraudulent charges if you use your credit card. If you pay with a debit card or cash, you may not get your money back if you find out you were scammed.