Many apartment hunters don't take action after becoming the victim of an apartment rental scam. Some don't act because of strong feelings, such as fear, embarrassment, anger, or denial. Others do nothing because they don't realize the options available to them. But taking action after a rental scam can make you feel empowered, and your actions might help catch the person behind the scam, stop the scam from continuing and hurting others and get your money back.
What You Can Do After a Scam
Here are seven things you can do if you become the victim of a rental scam:
- Call the police. You should let your local law enforcement know if you've been scammed. Even if you don't feel optimistic about pursuing this option, the information you supply the police might be enough to help them apprehend the scammer and get your money returned. Also, until you contact the authorities, you won't know if you're the only victim of this scam. If the police have already been investigating the same scam, then any information you can add about it will be very helpful.
- Contact the publisher behind the ad. If the scam originated from an advertisement, let the publisher know about what happened. Many print and online publishers take scams very seriously and would appreciate knowing about problems with their listings. Look up the customer service phone number or e-mail address on the publisher's Web site. Some publishers go the extra step of asking readers who believe they've been scammed to send them the details. For example, if you believe you became the victim of a scam after responding to a posting on Craigslist, tell Craigslist what happened by completing the site's short online form.
- File a complaint with the FTC. If you become the victim of a rental scam in the United States, consider reporting it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal consumer protection agency. Find out more about how to submit a complaint by phone or online.
- Look for a lesson. No matter how it happened, you're not to blame for becoming the victim of a rental scam. But perhaps there was a warning sign you ignored or a way you could have been even more careful. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, and so after a rental scam, it pays to take a moment to see if there's a lesson to be learned.
- Review the red flags. Although rental scams always seem to strike when we least expect, there are some common warning signs. Get familiar with these red flags to help identify and avoid rental scams.
- Don't get discouraged. After falling victim to a rental scam, it's easy to lose hope of finding the perfect apartment or to get angry at the whole process and begin to suspect everyone. But it's important not to get discouraged. Don't lose sight of the fact that nothing has changed as far as finding an apartment is concerned. There were and always will be scammers, so realize that apartment hunting didn't suddenly become more dangerous or difficult. Also, keep in mind that although it's a good idea to look out for red flags, the vast majority of apartment ads out there are legitimate, thankfully.
- Share your story. Consider sharing your rental scam story. Writing about the experience (which you can do anonymously) can make you feel better. Plus, reading others' stories may help remind you that you're not alone. Rental scams happen to the best of us.