Top 5 Red Flags To Spot A Rental Scammer

My name is Dave Dugdale and I run a couple of rental classified websites (RentVine.com and PickRent.com). Over the past 8 to 12 months rental scammers have really been hitting my sites hard with bogus listings. The scammers create bogus listings with an attractive rental price, and then trick future tenants into sending them a deposit even though they don’t own or manage the property.


To combat this problem, I have created many automated systems to detect the scammers on my sites and prohibit them from posting a rental listing. The systems are not full-proof. Occasionally, the scammers get smarter than me and a posting will slip by. But, I will usually catch it fairly soon after posting. I think I have come to develop a sixth sense when it comes to spotting the fraudulent listings.

Red Flag #1 – The Price
The first give away is the price. The old adage is true: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers want instant gratification. If they price the bogus rental well below fair market value they get leads quicker.

Red Flag #2 – The Email Address
If the email address is corporate (ending in a company name) than I know it is not a fraud. It is very hard to hide behind domain records. Scammers always hide behind free services like Gmail, Yahoo, AOL and others.

Red Flag #3 – The Exterior Photo
If there is no exterior photo of the front of the house, then another red flag goes up. Scammers are getting smarter and they know that people can use Google Street View to match the listing photo with the one from Google Street View.

Red Flag #4 – Duplicate Content Elsewhere
At this point if the price is too low and email address is a free one, then I take one sentence from the rental description and put it into Google with quotes around it. The quotes search for an exact match within Google. Many times I will find duplicate listings on the web with the exact same sentence. But I have to look beyond just duplicate content, as many people list their rentals on many sites. I look to see if the address, photos or the price do not match the listing posted on my site. Scammers scrape content and photos from other sites and list them with a lower price.

Red Flag #5 – New York City Cell Phone Number
A vast majority of scammers to my site come from Nigeria and they like to use cell phones with numbers from New York City. I do a reverse lookup of the phone number and see if it is from New York City, then I call it. They hardly ever answer their phones. They never call back and only want to correspond via email.

I have created a?blacklist of rental scammer email addresses for those interested in checking to see if they are dealing with a known scammer. Many of these scammers have dozens if not hundreds of email addresses and create new ones all the time. However, I have seen them come back and use older ones.

Bio: Dave Dugdale has been in the online rental advertising business for 5
years. He was the first to write a blog on the rental ad industry, and the first to podcast
interviews of industry experts in property management. Dave has also been
leading the way in better?detection of rental scams by sharing his database
of blacklist email addresses with other rental websites.