Protect Yourself From Online Housing Scams.
This page is designed to be a resource to help you protect yourself from online housing scams when you’re traveling for work as a travel nurse. You have to be extra diligent and hyper-aware of who you decide to enter into a housing arrangement with. Researching furnished housing online is easy and convenient, but it also brings a heightened risk of scams and fraud along with it. It's more important than ever to have an arsenal of resources at your disposal as you're not just protecting your money, you're also protecting your personal information! Be aware that we are not part of the booking or leasing process and cannot refund your money if you are scammed. We go to great lengths to prevent fraud on our site, but their methods are constantly changing. Online housing fraud may never go away completely, but when we work together, we can take steps to ensure our online housing map is the safest place it can be.
Here's what we do:
- An initial property sweep to check on the status of the property with the county.
- Encourage property owners to go through an additional optional verification process (extra cost). If verified, their listing displays an 'owner verification' badge.
- Warn users to never wire money.
- Offer a free “owner verification” report to any traveling healthcare provider, no matter where they find their housing. If you’re not sure, let us check it out for you. We want travelers to be safe no matter what.
- Immediately review reported listings and remove them if deemed inappropriate.
- Monitor internal communication for common key words/phrases used by scammers.
- Report known bad actors and fully support law enforcement investigations of fraud.
- Conduct independent investigations of suspicious listings and pursue legal action when possible.
Here's what you can do:
Educate yourself and your colleagues on common scams and recognize the red flags. Also, if you feel like you've been approached by a scammer (even if you're not sure) report the listing immediately (and give us screenshots of their texts/emails as well).
There are a variety of scam types, but the three most used are 1. the fake ad, 2. the spoof ad, and 3. the identity theft ad.
The fake ad is easier to spot than others, but can still be dangerously effective. A spoof ad is where they copy a legitimate ad, but lower the price and change the contact information. Even harder to spot, the identity-theft ad is where the scammer assumes the identity of the real owner of the property being advertised. No matter the scam-type, they all have one thing in common: they all want you to send money to secure the unit.
Here's what you can do:
1. Is the price better than anything else on the market? This is practically always used by scammers to entice more people to their ad, and then they prey on your fear of losing out on a seemingly great deal.
2. Never Ever Wire Funds. Scammers will always ask you for money to secure the unit, and they prefer Wires because you have absolutely no way to get the money back after you send it.
3. Dramatic story time. They're managing it for an ill family member who had to travel abroad to seek medical care... or something like that. Don't engage. Just ghost them.
4. Weird communication hours. The reason a lot of their stories involve them overseas is because they are. If you see a lot of their communication happening in the middle of the night, it could be a red flag.
5. Can't meet in person. They may schedule a showing, but a scammer will never show up. Most of the time, they just lay on the excuses why they can't show it (out of town saving babies, going to seminary school, or the ill-father routine).
6. Frequent misspellings. This should be self explanatory, but one thing is if they spell words the European way such as "Centre" "Colour" "Labour" "Honour". One more thing we've seen is the use of the word, "revert" for the word "reply". ex. "I'll revert after I receive a confirmation from the bank." Likewise, if they put the +1 country code in front of their local phone number, this may also be something to be suspicious of.
7. Claim that their "with Furnished Finder". Short story...They're not. We're never part of any booking or lease between traveler and property owner.
Owner Verification Report (Free):
Legitimate landlords will never ask for you to WIRE funds. According to our sister site, Travel Nurse Housing, “Don’t wire funds. Ever. Once you wire, you can’t get it back. Period. This is why scammers like wires. There are so many easy ways to transfer money and make your rent payments these days, and none of them involve setting up a wire.”
More action items:
As mentioned, travelers can submit a free owner verification report where we’ll scrub the county data for the current owner information on record and also check for foreclosure or pre-foreclosure (where a lot of fraud can occur). The key to fraud protection is information, so if any of the information we provide is different that what they provide, it bears further investigation. It’s not a science; sometimes county data may not be current, or perhaps the property is owned by a LLC, or maybe there’s a legitimate property manager involved, but you have to be the voice of reason to see if it makes sense or not. If the name on record is anything other than the person you’re speaking to, it could be cause for suspicion.
Fear By Price:
Scammers create urgency by pricing a ‘Really Good Deal’ under market value which does something to your brain...and depending how urgently you need to secure housing, some are willing to do almost anything to protect this ‘great deal’ before anyone else gets it. They count on this response, and will exploit your situation and use it against you. Don’t let it happen to you.
Usually in Competitive Markets.
They want to be in competitive markets so they can attract a lot of people to their ad, stand out in a crowd (as they’re typically $500-1000 less than other comparable properties), and have a high enough price point to get the highest possible deposit out of you.
Google Image Search.
This is a really powerful tool. It’s not always conclusive, but it can sometimes tell you if one of their photos are being used elsewhere on the web. https://images.google.com/
Report suspicious properties.
Never wire funds.