Apartment Catfishing is no Joke

We live in a digital age. Practically anything, from dating to shopping to taking a virtual tour of your future abode, can be done online. 

Let’s be real though. You’ve probably already experienced an online bait-and-switch in which you looked at something online, loved it, then saw it in person and ran for the hills. Whether it’s a bad date, a dress that ended up not fitting the way it looked in the photos, or an apartment from hell, we all understand the gross deceit that can happen online. 

Here are some red flags to watch out for when you’re apartment hunting to avoid getting conned.

Red Flag #1: There are only a few pictures of the apartment online.

When you’re checking out a place online, it’s a good rule of thumb to approach every listing with caution. Similar to how people “catfish” online, some listers opt to highlight only the best features of an apartment. If there’s only one or two photos in the entire gallery, or the same room pictured five times, there’s a good chance they’re hiding something. Ask for more information or see the property in person. Or just keep it simple and move on to the next option!

Red Flag #2: The landlord refuses to meet in person.

Even if it’s love at first click and you’re ready to commit to that apartment you spotted online, you should definitely scope it out IRL and meet the landlord before signing your soul away. If you sign a contract or lease prior to meeting your actual landlord, you put yourself at risk for being scammed. Landlords who claim they’re out of town or are unable to meet before you make a deposit are most likely aiming to swindle eager renters.

Red Flag #3: The apartment seems too good to be true.

Some listings appear too good to be true. An amazing location with an array of amenities, all at an affordable price! What a deal, right? Probably not. Scammers can create listings of homes and apartments with lavish descriptions and inexpensive rent, claiming that the property is highly desired. The end result is renters being conned into paying expensive fees and deposits to “secure” the supposedly sought-after listing that doesn’t actually exist.

Red Flag #4: Contracts don’t line up with what was agreed to.

When being scammed, your landlord may try to switch up a few details at the last minute. Suddenly, your rent has become higher and your security deposit has gone up hundreds of dollars. Having a written contract signed by both your landlord and yourself, which was agreed upon verbally as well, will lead to consistency and help avoid any problems or unwanted fees. Make sure that you get a copy of the contract, even if your landlord insists that only they need to keep it on file. Double-check everything before you sign.

Red Flag #5: There are duplicate listings with different contact info.

Keep your eyes peeled for duplicate listings of any properties you’re interested in. Scammers often take real listings and copy them onto another listing platform, adding their own contact information in place of the actual landlord or realtor. While the property pictures will almost always be the same, scammers will often change the listing description and add in information about themselves. For example, they’ll often say that they live in a different country and are unable to meet in person, so they will be going through the renting process remotely. Use a reverse image search, which can be done by uploading a photo to images.google.com, to quickly find out what other sites the property is listed on and determine if it’s worth your time.

Whether you’re apartment hunting the old fashioned way or choosing a more modernized route like scoping out properties online, it’s important to stay educated on the property as well as who you’re renting from. Sure, it’s hard to avoid being catfished on a dating app, but it’s certainly preventable when looking for your next dwelling. 

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