Landlords, Protect Yourself From Online Housing Scams.
Online scams are real and anyone can be a victim. Even a landlord. Regardless of the platform, a Landlord needs to be vigilant about who they communicate with and should always control the rental process to protect yourself.
The following tips are obvious, but should be stated:
- Landlords should never send money to a prospective tenant for any reason.
- Landlords should have a tenant screening plan and follow it step-by-step. Ex. Application, Screening, Lease, Deposit.
- Landlords should always take control of the conversation and never entertain a reason to deviate from your tenant screening plan.
- Landlords should remember that the bigger and more dramatic the story, the higher the chance that you’re speaking to a scammer.
Below is an example of the common “Overpay Scam” where a potential renter sends you a check for too much money for move-in costs and asks you to send the extra money to someone else for some reason.
It starts with a foreign traveler who communicates via email and tells you way too much information about themselves to try to seem personable and to introduce elements of their scam to you as early as possible. Here’s an example below:
Hi _______,

I am glad to hear the room is still available. I will be needing the room by June. My Name is ______. I'm a Female young lady,I speak English and understand little Chinese, am single, and respectful of others,i don't drink and don't do drugs neither do I smoke. My Mother is from Canada while my Father is from China but resides in Canada. I was born in China and i attended University of Waterloo. I graduated last year.

I'm coming for a long term stay and i'm ready to sign 6 month to 1 year lease as soon as i get there but am presently on research work at Guam and will be coming for my master's degree in June but I'll like to move in anytime because i have to do so many things before we resume fully for school. I'll like to pay for the deposit and a month rent. I would have loved to set up a time for viewing but due to distance, I'll appreciate some more available Pics of the room though.

Please I'll love to know a little about yourself too. Also ,just to let you know that I have a car and would need a garage,Have you got one or a parking space?,Do let me know the total amount for the first month rent and deposit. Also, just to let you know, I am super clean,neat and tidy.

Thank you
They mention the two most important elements of their hustle in the intro email: 1) paying a deposit and 2) introducing the car situation (which comes into play next).
Thank you for the information. i will wait to receive the lease. Regarding my Car. I'm planning on having it delivered to you before my arrival so that you can help to come and pick me up at the airport and settle in comfortably, so i am making arrangement with the car dealer agents to deliver the car before my arrival. Once the rent and security deposit has been received, I'll ask you for a favor here, can i rely on you to take delivery of the car for me when it's delivered ? I'll like to know the convenient time for you to receive the car. As you'll be handling the delivery of the car along with the deposit, the car and my luggage delivery money will be included on the payment coming to you.
I'll really appreciate if you can do this for me and promise to compensate you adequately for your time and efforts on my arrival into your place.
Please kindly Let me know if i can trust you to have the car Dealer's fund sent to them once you get the check and have deducted the rent and deposit, i will be expecting your e-mail as soon as you receive this. Thanks so much for your understanding.

Kind regards
The hustle is on. You’ll notice the “applicant” is now getting more bold and demanding in their approach because they realize that the landlord isn’t taking control of the process (which is exactly what they’re looking for). Landlords should have a tenant screening plan and follow it step-by-step. The story continues to grow and the con is exposed.
Basically, in this overpay scam, they’ll send you a fake check for more than your required deposit, and ask you to sent the extra money (out of your own pocket) to the “car delivery” person. Obviously this is not going to end well because their check will never clear. Landlords should never send money to a prospective tenant for any reason.
Alarms and red flags should be going off in your brain because this just isn’t normal. It should never go this far to begin with. Stop all communication with this person and block them in your phone & email immediately.
Landlords, as well as travelers, have to be vigilant regarding online housing. We hope this resource will prevent loss and educate landlords.