With homes and apartments so tough to find this year, many renters are desperate to find anything.
That's how one woman ended up falling victim to a rental scam.
Mariah Dates had no luck finding a rental home until a cute two-bedroom house popped up on Facebook Marketplace for just $700 a month.
"I emailed the realtor, and she emailed me back, with pictures of the house and everything," Dates said.
Dates said she drove to the house to see if it was real. Once she saw it in person she immediately filled out the application and sent a deposit and two months' rent via the Zelle app.
"I ended up sending the money for the deposit and the rent, but never got the keys."
It turns out the listing was fake.
Dates said she never heard from the landlord again. The pictures she saw were real but were stolen from a recent "For Sale" listing of the home.
The home was never for rent. The so-called realtor was a hacked Facebook page.
Dates lost more than $2,000.
This rental scam is becoming so common this year because of the red-hot housing market. With home prices so high, more people are trying to rent homes, making them easy prey for scammers.
How to avoid a housing rental scam
The Federal Trade Commission said to be suspicious of rental listings if:
- The landlord wants a deposit before you have met
- You can't go inside the home
- They ask for a deposit via a Venmo, Zelle of gift cards.
In some instances, your bank can help you if you become a victim of a housing rental scam. But in most cases, they can't.
In this tight housing market, be suspicious of any rental that sounds too cheap and you can't meet the landlord so you don't waste your money.