Beware of college rental scams that could cost your student thousands

A rental scam alert targeting local college students could cost them, or their parents, thousands of dollars.

As students head to campus, the Federal Trade Commission is warning about rental listing scams.

Crooks could catch young people off guard as they look to rent their first apartment or house. Prospective renters are especially vulnerable right now because affordable, safe and clean housing is a hot commodity.

Between books, classes, tuition, joining clubs, there are so many things to worry about with higher education. Don’t forget to add housing to that list, especially for students not living dorm life.

Why would college students be especially susceptible to the scam?

Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida President and CEO Tom Stephens said even the most discerning scholar could fall for some of these scams if they don’t have their guard up.

“What happens a lot of times if that’s a hijacked ad,” he notes. “They’ve taken that picture, that house, so that apartment and that description and copied it and put it on another website, but a different phone number in a different management company in there.”

Others include phantom rentals. These are listings for rentals or apartments that don’t exist.

From there, these cyber criminals ask for, you guessed it, money.

It could be an application fee, a security deposit, or the first month’s rent.

“You have to send the money,” Stephens said. “You have to wire it to them. But that’s the first deadly tip-off.”

The FTC just released a warning listing rip-off red flags like:

Asking you to send the money electronicallyDemanding payment up front before you meet anyone or tour the propertyThe “agent” claiming they’re out of the country and can’t meet in person

Here’s how to lower your risk for a rental scam: Do your homework and search online with the management company followed by “review” “complaint” or “scam.”

Then verify the property exists and the agent actually works for the company visit the rental in person or send a trusted friend and pay by credit card it’s the safest way.

“Once you do those things you can feel pretty comfortable that that place really exists and you’re dealing with people who actually have it under management,” Stephens added.

Life lessons your student likely won’t learn in the classroom.

The FTC says to contact them at and notify local law enforcement if you find a rental scam. They say you can also let the legitimate owner of the property know, so they can be aware.

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