On Your Side Investigates: Beware of apartment scammers

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Had Jessica Bednarik not stopped by to see the Dilworth apartment she wanted to rent in person, she would have handed over roughly $1,000 to a person who had no ability to rent it out.

Bednarik found the apartment in a popular online rental listing service. It was cheap and in a good neighborhood so, she said, she was immediately interested.

"It's completely furnished in the Dilworth area for $550? What's the catch here?" she wondered.

Bednarik said was first alerted her to the fact that the deal might be too good to be true was when she went to the apartment and noticed fresh fruit and bottles of liquor out on the table. The place seemed lived in.

"So, I messaged the guy back and said 'I thought it was available to live in,'" Bednarik explained. "He said, 'oh, it is.'"

But it wasn't.

The Better Business Bureau did a study in the spring 2016 that surveyed apartment listings in 20 major cities. The survey found more than 29,000 suspect listing out of more than two million ads, a release from the organization said.

Here are some things BBB said people can do to keep from falling for an apartment listing that's too good to be true:

  • Don't wire money or use a prepaid debit card: You should never pay a security deposit or first month's rent by prepaid debit card or wire transfer. These payments are the same as sending cash - once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
  • Watch out for deals that sound too good: Scammers lure in targets by promising low rents, great amenities and other perks. If the price seems much better than offered elsewhere, it may be a scam.
  • See the property in person: Don't send money to someone you've never met for an apartment you haven't seen. If you can't visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised.
  • Don't fall for the overseas landlord story: Scammers often claim to be out of the country and instruct targets to send money overseas.
  • Search for the same ad in other cities: Search for the listing online. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that's a huge red flag.

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