When searching for a rental home in the Greater Seattle area, it is important to be aware of rental scams. These scammers use various tactics to try and get renters to part with their personal information and hard-earned money, which can be financially devastating. With the improvements we have seen in technology, these scams have continued to become more advanced and deceiving. As a result, it is important to stay vigilant and be aware of the different rental scams that exist.

In this article, we will cover the importance of being aware of rental scams that exist and tips and tools for how to avoid them.  We will also discuss the steps you can take if you have been scammed and a few resources for renters. We hope this will help guide you through the rental process and away from scammers. 

Types of Rental Scams

Fake Rental Listings

One of the most common rental scams is imitation postings of rental listings. Scammers will take actual rental listings and create a duplicate listing with a lower price or false information. They typically will post these fake listings on popular websites like Craigslist or Zillow and try to get people to pay a deposit or first month’s rent to the hold the property before they have even seen it. Often, the scammers will claim to be out of town or out of the country, and they will ask the renter to send money via wire transfer or gift cards.

To avoid this type of scam, it is important to read through rental listings carefully and be wary of any that seem too good to be true. If the price seems to be vastly under market value, it may not be a legitimate posting. Be sure to do your due diligence by researching the landlord or property management company and verifying the address of the property. You should also be cautious of any landlord who is not willing to let you see the property in person before paying any money. Our team at Lori Gill & Associates has a designated Leasing Team to show our properties and are happy to provide a virtual tour if you are not able to view the home in person!

Phishing Scams

Another common rental scam is phishing. In this type of scam, the scammer will send you an email or text message that appears to be from a legitimate source (sometimes they will even mimic the owner’s name as found in the county tax records). The message will usually ask for personal information like your Social Security number, bank account information, credit cards or passwords, which the scammer can then use to steal your identity or your money. Scammers try thousands of phishing attacks like these every day and often, they are successful.

To avoid phishing scams, be cautious of any messages that ask for personal information. Always verify the sender’s identity and be wary of any messages that seem suspicious or out of the ordinary. 

Bait-and-Switch Scams

A bait-and-switch scam involves a landlord showing you one property and then trying to get you to sign a lease for a different, often less desirable, property. The landlord may also try to change the terms of the lease after you have signed it, which can lead to unexpected expenses or a difficult living situation.

To avoid this type of scam, make sure to read the lease carefully before signing it. You should also make sure that the property you are shown is the same one that is listed in the lease.

Tips for Avoiding Rental Scams

Here are some tips for avoiding rental scams in the Greater Seattle area:

Do your research: Before renting a property, research the landlord or property management company to ensure that they are reputable. You can check online reviews or ask for references. Have a list of questions handy to ask the landlord about the property. 

Verify the property: Make sure to verify the address of the property and check that it is a legitimate listing. You can do this by checking the property records or by doing a Google search of the address. If you see another listing at the same address for a higher price, the higher priced property may be the accurate one. 

Be cautious about payment methods: Avoid sending money via or gift cards or making any kind of personal payment prior to signing a lease, as these methods are harder to trace and are often used by scammers. Instead, try to pay using a secure method like a money order or check. Make sure you verify who you are sending funds to. 

Trust your instincts: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of any rental listings that appear to be too inexpensive for what they are worth or landlords who are not willing to let you see the property in person, especially before sending money.

Read the lease carefully: Make sure to read the lease carefully and ask any clarifying questions before signing it. A lease is a legally binding document!

What to Do If You Have Been Scammed

If you have been scammed, it is important to take action as soon as possible. Here are some steps you can take:

Contact the authorities: If you have been scammed, report it to the local authorities. You can contact the Police Department or the Sheriff’s Office to file a report.

Contact your bank: If you have given the scammer your bank account information, contact your bank as soon as possible to report the fraud and freeze your account.

Contact the rental website: If you found the rental listing on a website like Craigslist or Zillow, report the scam to the website. They may be able to take down the fake listing and prevent others from being scammed.

Check your credit report: Scammers may use your personal information to open new credit accounts in your name. Be sure to monitor your credit report for any suspicious activity.

Resources for Renters in the Greater Seattle Area

If you are looking for rental resources in the Greater Seattle area, here are some organizations that may be able to help:

Eastside Legal Assistance Program: ELAP provides legal assistance to low-income renters who are facing eviction or housing discrimination.

Tenant Education Programs: Many cities in the area, such as Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland, have a tenant education program that provides resources and information for renters. 

King County Housing Authority: The King County Housing Authority provides affordable housing options for low-income families and individuals in King County.

Washington State Tenants Union: The Washington State Tenants Union is a tenant advocacy group that provides resources and information for renters.

Final Words

Rental scams can have serious implications and it is important to be aware of the various ways in which scammers try to trick people. By following the tips outlined above and staying vigilant, you can help protect yourself from rental scams and find a safe and affordable place to live. If you have been scammed, be sure to take action and report the fraud to the appropriate authorities. Remember, by being proactive and staying informed, you can help protect yourself and your finances from rental scams. Let our team at Lori Gill & Associates help you through the process to find your perfect home!