BBB Warning: Nearly half of all internet rental listings are fake

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Double-check that apartment listing to make sure it’s real before giving anyone money to lease it. The National Better Business Burea released a national report that shows nearly half of all internet rental listings are fake.

According to a Better Business Bureau report, 85% of people don’t fall victim to a rental scam. But those who do, lose money, and in the worst-case scenarios might be left struggling to find a place to live.

FOX13 spoke to Nancy Crawford with the BBB of the Midsouth.

“Not only do these victims lose money but in some instances, they lose a place to live,” she said.

The National Better Business Bureau found 1300 cases of rental fraud from 2016 through 2019. According to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, it cost scam victims $37million in loses from January through October this year.

“It is a very easy scam to perpetrate. You steal a picture off another website, steal a description of the property and throw it up on a classified site,” Crawford said.

FOX 13 Investigates discovered two cases of renters giving money or signing bogus leases with people who didn’t own the property or had no authority to rent it here in Memphis.

Crawford told FOX13 renters should do some homework, like finding out who manages a property and calling them to inquire.

“Find out if that listing is legitimate before you give them up any money,” she said.

A legitimate company that manages dozens of apartment complexes should welcome a call from a cautious consumer.

If it is a home, check the tax assessors office to locate the owner and ask if the place is for rent.

“Don’t be in a hurry. Sometimes people are in a hurry for one reason or another and that is when they make mistakes," warned Crawford.

BBB said renters should always remember to look up the rental property address and name on their website, if you have any questions.

Another warning: if someone wants you to pay a deposit with a cash transfer app, walk away. That is a warning sign you could be scammed.