In the past, one of the most challenging aspects of working as a travel nurse was finding safe and affordable short-term rentals that offered fully-furnished accommodations. Fortunately, more landlords have realized the advantages of renting to travel nurses, and websites like Furnished Finder make it easier than ever to secure traveling nurse rentals in cities across the country.
However, the convenience of finding properties online also has the potential to expose travel nurses to online housing scams. While listing websites practice their due diligence when it comes to preventing and identifying fraudulent rental properties, travel nurses also need to be armed with the right knowledge and know-how to spot potential scams. This guide will help you avoid scams and get matched up with trustworthy landlords and ideal housing opportunities.
Common Housing Scams
Typically, housing scams fall under three main categories: the fake ad, the spoof ad, and the identity theft ad. Usually, the fake ad will only include a few blurry images and very little information about the property. Remember that landlords are running a business and looking to earn rental income, which means that a legitimate landlord will really want to sell their rental and show it in the best light possible. If the ad is short on details, it is probably fake. Move on to other options and take the time to report any suspicious ads, so that other travel nurses don’t fall victim to scams.
The spoof ad can be a little harder to spot.
In this case, they typically use professional images that really catch your eye, but there tends to be something about the listing that seems too good to be true. Perhaps you have been looking at comparable properties, and they are listed at much higher prices. If the landlord is offering a lot of space and other amenities for a bargain-basement price, beware. Rental prices in the same area should be pretty consistent…
Identity theft ads
With identity theft ads. A scammer has stolen the landlord’s identity and is posing as them to try and convince potential renters to send them money. This type of scam won’t be as obvious right up front but listen to your instincts if something feels off or don’t feel completely comfortable with the interactions between you and the landlord.
Remember, scammers will always have an odd story about why they can’t show you the place, and they’re building urgency with each interaction with the ultimate goal of you sending money to secure the property. Once that money has been sent, there is no way to get your money back (even if you use popular payment sites like Zelle or Venmo).
Landlords can also be victims of scammers as well.
The best thing they can do is have a tenant screening system and stick to it every time. A common online landlord scam is where a scammer pretends to be a foreign student who is shipping their car. They’ll send you a check for more than your move-in costs, but you’re supposed to send the ‘extra money’ to a car shipping company. The bottom line is “the bigger the story, the bigger the ruse.” Don’t fall for it.
Watch for these Housing Scam Red Flags:
1. A dramatic storyline.
If they are stuck overseas, need to rent out the property ASAP due to an illness, or offer up some other heart-wrenching reason that is meant to evoke a sympathetic response, ghost the poster immediately. Legitimate landlords should already have a simple and straightforward process for both parties involved.
2. Landlord is unable to meet in person.
Even if the owner lives in another state, they should have someone nearby managing them. You should always be able to meet the landlord in person if you want to. A scammer may agree to meet in person at first, but you will find that they always come up with an excuse to cancel, and it usually involves a sob story.
3. Unusual communication hours.
Have you noticed that the landlord only seems to send you emails at 2 in the morning? While they might be night owls, there is a good chance that they are actually located overseas and running a housing scam.
4. Poorly written emails and European spellings.
If their emails are full of misspellings and grammatical errors, it is difficult to decipher what they are trying to say. This is a major red flag. Also, take note of any European spellings, such as the additional “u” in words like colour and labour, or maybe they use the word “revert” instead of “reply.”
5. They want you to wire funds.
There are plenty of ways to instantly make secure payments from your smartphone or computer in today’s digital world. There is no reason to ever wire money, especially to someone you don’t know. Scammers will try and pressure you into sending a wire transfer because it means that you won’t be able to get your money back. Even then, you can still get scammed on Venmo and Zelle, so be sure who you’re speaking to is really the owner of the property. (Don’t be fooled by fake passports either – commonly, the identity they use will have a fake passport as well).
6. They are using high-pressure sales tactics.
The faster a scammer can get you to commit to a property, the less time you have to notice and consider some red flags that might be popping up. Oftentimes, they will tell you that others are ready to rent the property, and you have to move fast. Most reputable landlords are happy to go through the application and verification process so that both parties are comfortable moving forward and set up for success. If you are feeling rushed and uncertain, trust yourself and move on to another listing.
Don’t get so stressed that you make a bad decision and don’t forget that hotels are your friend! You can always grab an extended stay hotel when you arrive to give you time to meet the landlord and view the property.
Tips for Avoiding Housing Scams
First and foremost, begin your housing search with an established company that screens the hosts. Furnished Finder, who also owns TravelNurseHousing.com, is familiar with the needs of travel nurses and the challenges they face when it comes to avoiding scams which is why every landlord on FF must pass a background check before their listing goes live. Verifying the landlord’s identity is a time-consuming and expensive process for a housing site. Still, it is also one reason Furnished Finder is probably the highest-regarded travel nurse housing site in the industry.
In case you find housing somewhere else and want a second opinion to make sure you’re not speaking to a scammer, you can even submit a free owner verification report from Furnished Finder as well. This is the same report they use to screen their landlords on their site, but they don’t charge the traveler a dime.
You can also do some sleuthing of your own
Using Google maps and Google image search. Take a few moments to find the property on Google Maps and verify that the street view of the property matches the images of the property listing. You can also take the images and run them through google image search to see whether these same pictures have been used on other listings and are part of a scam.
While scammers continue to become more sophisticated, there are steps you can take to identify and avoid being taken in by a fake landlord looking to steal your money and your personal information. Be aware of the different types of housing scams, look out for red flags and follow our tips for avoiding scams. To learn more about this topic and start searching for the right rental for your next travel nurse assignment, visit Furnished Finder today.
We hope that these tips for avoiding housing scams help you on your travels! If you are looking for more tips for travel nurse housing, The Ultimate Travel Nurse Housing Resource for the Renter and Landlord includes great information for travel nurses looking for housing.