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User Safety and Email Fraud

Our goal is to make WhatsTheRent.com as safe and secure as possible. It’s inevitable that scammers will try to trick you into sending them money. To combat this, all initial contact emails go through our system. We have a complex program that looks at several factors of the email to try and determine if it’s legitimate. Hopefully we’ll catch and delete these emails before you see them, but chances are some will still get past our filters. Here’s some information to help you recognize a scam, and a few tips on how to keep your WhatsTheRent.com experience a safe one.

For Owners

Setting your location when creating a new listing:

When you are creating a new listing, think about how specific to be. If you enter an exact street address, that location that will be visible to all users. When entering your location, you have the option to give a nearby intersection or just a zip code. If you don’t want people to know your exact street address, then don’t enter that information on the new listing page.

Email Scams:

Be cautious of emails that sound too good to be true. A common scam involves a person posing as a renter and offering to send a large check as an advanced payment. Another is to ask you to hold the money for them or ask that you use it to pay their moving expenses. They may say they are overseas, and thus need help paying for a moving company. The scammers will then mail you a check and ask you to send a portion back to them or to a third party, perhaps a "moving company." The check will be fake, but in the time it takes your the bank to reject it, you may have already sent money to the scammer. Remember, the renter is the person who should be sending you money. Don’t ever send money to a prospective renter. If the renter asks for a refund, either tell them you’ll only do it in person, or wait two weeks to be sure the check the renter gave you clears.

Be weary of emails from users that sound very generic and non-specific. Do they ask specific questions that apply to your property? Are they ignorant about the area they’re moving to? Is there a specific reason why they’re moving that applies to your area? Scammers often claim to be in a big rush, and promise massive payments if you email them quickly. But no matter how rushed a person is, they should still have questions about the room. Also, be weary of emails that contain spelling mistakes and poor grammar.

Examples of fraudulent emails can be found in our forums.

For Renters:

We do not monitor the listings that owners put on our site. We rely on our users to report bogus listings by using the "report this listing" link that can be found on each listing.

Be cautious of any owner who asks for an immediate deposit, or asks you to wire them money to hold the room. Never make an advanced payment unless you have seen the room or have had a third party verify that the room even exists. One common scam involves creating a fake listing, then asking for a $100 holding fee from prospective renters. You'll send the money, pack up your belongings, move across country, then when you show up at the address you’ll find an empty lot.

Another common scam involves a scammer posing as an owner and telling potential renters that he needs to conduct a background check on you. He’ll ask for your social security number and bank account information, presumably to verify that you can afford the rent -- the next thing you know, your bank account is empty. Never give out your social security number or any financial information.

Be cautious of sending money before you have met the owner or inspected the room. Always try to put the check in the owner’s hand.

General:

Follow these rules to avoid many scams:
  • Be cautious of any users who contact you from overseas.
  • Never wire money using Western Union.
  • Don’t send a renter a refund. Instead, return their check to them or ask them to stop payment on it.
  • Never give out any personal financial information, especially your social security number or bank account information.
  • If you have received a check that you think is counterfeit, contact your bank and wait two weeks before using the funds.
If you have any other questions about possible scams, or if you see a possibly bogus listing, you may contact us about the listing, or visit our forums and ask other users for advice.

If you have been the victim of a scam, contact the FTC using their toll free hotline (877-FTC-HELP) or visit their webpage at http://www.ftc.gov.

The information provided above is for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. WhatsTheRent.com is not involved in any financial transactions and is not responsible for any loses incurred as a result of fraudulent emails and listings.
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