Creating the Extraordinary Student Experience

Common Roommate and Sublet Rental Scams Across the Country

April 7, 2014

Use caution when you create roommate and sublet ads online.  The storylines will differ but in general a scammer might contact you about your roommate or sublet ad in an attempt to steal your money and commit fraud.

Common Rental Scam Scenario:

  • You are emailed about your ad and asked to provide information about the property, including price. 
  • The individual also might ask for your personal information, like your full name, address, and bank account number.
  • The individual will send you a certified check or money order to cover rent and/or security deposit.
  • The check will be more than the amount required under the lease or sublease.
  • The individual asks you send the excess money back to him/her.
  • You send the money back but the individual's check bounces, leaving you without your money.

Warning Signs:

  • The individual is eager to send you money for the apartment/room without seeing it, talking to your roommates, or talking to your landlord.
  • You receive a certified check or money order for more than the amount that you agreed upon with the subtenant.
  • You are asked to wire funds or send money orders to the subtenant.
  • The subtenant is not willing to provide basic identifying information, including a copy of license, SSN, references and credit reports.
  • The subtenant asks you to handle the sublease without informing your landlord (this is done to sidestep the background check process).

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Deal locally with the person, and actually meet them.  Avoid individuals that claim they cannot meet you in-person, or say someone else will meet you instead.
  • Don’t wire funds and avoid cashier’s checks.  Any mention of money, money orders, cashier’s checks, wire transfers, or bank accounts in the first email is very suspicious.
  • Check the individual's references (like past landlords or employers).  Do a Google search on the person's name and email and see if it has been used in past scams.  
  • Ask the individual for his or her phone number, full name, and employer verification.  If the individual becomes angry or won't give you information, it's probably a scam.  Stop communicating with the individual.
  • Refuse over-payment.
  • Do not share your personal information unless you’ve confirmed the individual’s name and personal information.

For more information about common rental scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information page.