Avoid Scams & Fraud

The convenience of shopping online brings with it a heightened risk of scams and fraud. You should always be mindful and vigilant before providing anyone your personal information or sending payment of any kind. We work hard to provide our users with a convenient and reliable source of rental listings and roommate profiles, but fraudsters are also working to scam users. When we work together, we can take steps to make our online marketplaces the safest they can be. Be aware we do not participate in any rental transactions and cannot refund your money if you are scammed. While we work continuously to ensure that you have a positive experience using our site, we cannot guarantee that our sites are 100% free from false or fraudulent listings.

What We Do

  • While no screening system is perfect, we do scan our listings for high risk or fraudulent listings and pursue legal action where proper;
  • Immediately review and remove listings that are reported as suspicious, when appropriate;
  • Fully and transparently support law enforcement investigations of listings fraud and Independently investigate suspicious and fraudulent listings and pursue legal action where proper.

What We Ask You to Do

Look out for scams. Here are some of the most common red flags:

  1. Rent offered below market. Scammers know that innocent renters will be less cautious if they are motivated to close quickly on a deal so they don’t lose out on something too good to be true.

  2. Request to wire money. Legitimate landlords do not ask renters to wire money to any account, especially an account located abroad. Nor do they ask for money by Western Union, MoneyGram or other money transfer service.

  3. Request to use another listing service or escrow account to transfer money. Scammers may impersonate legitimate listings services, like AirBnB or HomeAway, or request that money is sent to an escrow account to make renters believe they are dealing with a legitimate entity.

  4. Claim of affiliation with us. Scammers may impersonate our site to make it seem like we participate in the lease transaction or transfer of funds. We do not participate in any transactions between landlords and renters, and we will never ask you for money to use our site or any of our services.

  5. Dramatic landlord story. The landlord has received a job assignment abroad and must rent the unit ASAP. You are invited to drive by the building, but no one can show it to you because everyone is already living abroad. And you need to commit in the next 24 hours because dozens of people are waiting to sign the lease. A legitimate landlord will meet you in person and allow you to tour the property before asking for a deposit to secure the rental.

  6. Can’t or won’t meet in person. For whatever reason, the landlord/agent refuses to meet you in person at the property. They may even send you an access code to unlock an electronic lockbox to gain entry by yourself to the house, condo or apartment you are looking to rent.

Report scams immediately and with as much detail as possible (including copies of the communications with the scammer and money transfer details) to:

  1. Contact us by marking the listing as Suspicious on the site and calling 877-895-1234 or emailing offcampus@costar.com

  2. Your local police department

  3. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

  4. The Federal Trade Commission

  5. If you sent money by Western Union or Money Gram, those vendors’ customer service departments may be able to stop the transfer:

Review these real life example of rental listing scams and make sure it doesn’t happen to you:

  1. Fake owner allegedly located in the UK provides overly detailed story on why the unit is available and why she does not live in the U.S.:

    From: Ella Waddy <ellawaddy@gmail.com>

    Date: Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 1:55 PM

    Subject: Re: Apartments.com lead for

    To: "tanastrout@gmail.com" <tanastrout@gmail.com>

    Hello There,

    I am happy to let you know that my apartment is presently available even for long and short term periods. I am Ella Waddy, the owner of the apartment. I bought this apartment for my daughter during her studies in US, but now she's back home (London/United Kingdom) permanently, so I'm renting the place for unlimited time.

    The flat is exactly like in the pictures . The utilities (cold/hot water, electricity, wireless broadband Internet, digital TV, 1 parking spot, dishwasher, garbage disposal, microwave, refrigerator, washing machine, etc.) are INCLUDED in the price of $1,500 per month and one month deposit is also $1,500 and you get it back, once you decide to leave the apartment (with a 30 days notice). As for me, you can rest assured that I will never ask you to leave the apartment. My daughter is building her live here, and I am too old to move to US, so we won't disturb you.

    Before we go any further I would like to know a little something about you, like how many persons you intend to live in the apartment, and for how long.

    All the best from London,

    Ella Waddy

  2. Landlord who cannot deal face to face because he lives in the UK says Airbnb agent will hold a refundable deposit and give renter an opportunity to inspect the apartment:

    From: William Jackson <william.jackson2099@gmail.com <mailto: william.jackson2099@gmail.com>>

    Date: May 12, 2016 at 12:18:13 PM PDT

    To: Melanie Murphy <Melaniemurphy000@hotmail.com <mailto: Melaniemurphy000@hotmail.com>>

    Subject: Re: Apartments.com lead for

    Thank you for your reply!

    As I said, I'm in United Kingdom and cannot be present to deal face to face.

    I can make arrangements to rent the apartment from United Kingdom through Airbnb. com<http://airbnb. com> which is an international company dealing specifically in rentals apartments, I used it in the past and I was very pleased.

    I will explain how it works. If you decide to proceed with this transaction, I will need your phone number, full name, full address and email where you want to receive the keys and the temporary contract. Then I will go at Airbnb.com<http://airbnb.com> company from United Kingdom provide them your informations, and they will start the process right away in US. Next you will receive a notification message from them containing all the instructions that you need to follow in order to complete the process and receive the keys.

    Regarding the Payment, you will be instructed to do the deposit to an agent from Airbnb.com<http://airbnb. com>, they will hold and insure your money until you check the apartment and decide if you want to rent the place or not. You have to pay $1,200 + $1,200 = $2,400, if you will not be satisfied with the apartment the total amount will be refunded in same day after your request. You will be given a 2 days inspection period from the day you receive the keys and contract. Durring this period you can take a decision. If you like the apartment then we will make a direct rental contract. As for the monthly payment are done directly to my bank account from United Kingdom at the beginning or end of month, at your convenience.

    I look forward hearing back from you.

    William Jackson

Roommate Safety Tips

Make sure that checks for first month’s rent or utilities, etc. have cleared before processing refunds (e.g., someone sends you a $5,000 check to “secure” a rental and asks for $4,000 of it back). Note: processing international checks take longer than domestic.


  • Don’t use your full name on the Internet (Your public name within the roommate section of the site defaults to your first name and last initial based on what you have entered in your user account information. You can change this to whatever you prefer.)
  • Be mindful of the fact that unintended viewers (such as a friend of someone who has a Roommate Profile) may be able to easily view your information.
  • Be especially careful about posting your exact location - feel free to use our Alternate Address option when filling out Property Location information.
  • Keep in mind that viewers may be able to find information about you elsewhere, so check your privacy settings on other social media sites.
  • Use a search engine to look for yourself online and see what information you can find. Remove any private information that you can, or ask whomever is responsible for the website to remove it for you.
  • Be careful about displaying your age online - feel free to unselect our Display my age on my profile box in the “Personal Info” section.


  • Don’t open strange messages or email attachments. Even if you know someone, sometimes their accounts can post things that they don’t want. If a post or message doesn’t look like it’s from your friend, it probably isn’t.

Meeting in Person

  • Arrange a phone conversation before meeting in person. Call from a restricted number in order to mask your number.
  • Meet at a public place where you feel comfortable - never meet at a place of residence.
  • Meet in the daytime.
  • Tell a friend or family member what you are doing and where you are going. Arrange to call them when the meeting is over and/or when you are safely at home.
  • Consider bringing along a friend or two.
  • Be prepared to adjust your meeting plan or abandon it altogether if you feel uncomfortable at any point.
  • No matter how many times you have emailed or talked on the phone, if you haven’t met someone in person, consider them a stranger.
  • Have clarity of mind - don’t meet after a long day, after a party, etc.


  • Trust your instincts. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
  • Use other social sites or search engines to find out more about potential roommates. Check that their information is consistent across multiple sites.
  • Use a computer with safe Internet browsers and virus protection.
  • Never give out banking information.
  • Be cautious of people who express a desire to rent/sublease your property without seeing it first.
  • Make sure that checks for first month’s rent or utilities, etc. have cleared before processing refunds (e.g., someone sends you a $5,000 check to “secure” a rental and asks for $4,000 of it back). Note: processing international checks take longer than domestic.
  • If you suspect Internet fraud, contact the police department.
  • If you haven’t met someone in person, consider them a stranger.
  • Have clarity of mind - don’t meet after a long day, after a party, etc.