You've probably heard about in on the news. It is a variation of the Craig's List check scam I wrote about previously, but this scam affects both landlords and renters. I encourage you to watch this ABC News video (an advertisement plays first):
[Editor's note: this video has been deleted by the news provider.]
To avoid getting "mugged" via a rental scam, the FTC advises consumers to look for these signs:
"They want you to wire money... There’s never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, or first month’s rent. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back."
"They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease. It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen... do a search on the landlord and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam."
"They say they’re out of the country. But they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or “agent” working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys. Be skeptical, and don’t send money overseas."