The proliferation of online listings for properties available for rent has made it easier than ever for property hunters to find the exact location they are looking for. But it's also made it possible for people to post illegitimate listings. How do you know you're not looking for a scam?
Do a Reverse Image Search for the Property Images
It's easy for scammers to put up a picture of a nice, vacant property and post it as available for rent. But you might find that the image was actually taken from another website or listing, or even on another continent altogether.
Use TinEye or Google Reverse Image Search to look for other places where the image has been posted. If the image has been posted under a different address then it's a scam.
Look Up the Address on Google Earth
If an address seems like it's in the wrong location, you might want to check it out on Google Earth. If the satellite image shows that there are no homes or buildings where the scammer claimed there were, then you may be dealing with a property scam. Often, scammers are too lazy to come up with a real address or they're worried a real address would reveal their scam.
Never Trade Any Money Until You've Seen the Property in Person
You might be dealing with a scammer if they are requesting money upfront. There are legitimate reasons you would pay the owner of the property before you move in, but there should never be any pressure put on you to do so. If someone tells you that your application will not be considered unless you send them money for rent or deposit, then you're dealing with a scammer.
When viewing the property, never let the owner show you around while accompanied by people you don't know. This is usually an indication that they are trying to distract you from noticing something suspicious about their residence. Take the time to review any contracts.
Work With a Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent can help you find a legitimate rental property. They may also be able to tell you if there are any other listings for the address you are considering, which could give insight into whether or not it's legitimate. When in doubt, get a second opinion from another agent or tenant screening service.
Scam listings are out there. But they're much rarer than legitimate properties for rent. As long as you dot your i's and cross your t's, you should be safe. Work with a real estate agent, vet the listings, and avoid committing to anything before you're sure.