Don’t Get Scammed Putting Down That Security Deposit

When I looked for my last apartment, there were a few scary things in play.  I was moving in with my boyfriend (ack!) navigating the broker scene (double ack!), not to mention trying to find an honest landlord.

But the hands-down, most terrifying part of the process was trusting someone I had just met with a check for about $3600 – or – two months’ rent. I shudder, now, just thinking about stress.   Luckily, I did my research and the money was well spent.  Looking around online though, plenty of folks didn’t have such happy endings.

As you consider leaving a security deposit, here are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure your money is going to trustworthy paws.

1) Always use a credit card when possible. Checks can be stopped, but once they’re cashed the money is G-O-N-E.  A credit card company, however, will go to bat for you. They have entire fraud divisions. Never ever wire money, even if it means losing the apartment. Wire scams are prevalent. It’s better to beg a friend already living in the city (if you are out of town) to assist.

2) Do your Google research. If it’s an internet scam (i.e. wire us money and you can have this apt) – someone was likely scammed before you.  Most likely, they’ve written about it somewhere. This also holds true to check out large management companies. Check sites like Fraudwatchers.org (though this may only work for large-scale scams.) And be careful, it’s .org, not .com.

3) Get everything in writing.  Yeah, this one should be obvious, but the rental process is nerve wracking and it’s easy to forget. Also, be sure to read carefully anything you sign and keep your own copy.

4) Use good judgment. If the price is too low – there’s almost always something wrong. Either a crazy neighbor or a delinquent landlord. . . there’s a deal and then there is being taken.

5) Bring a friend with you for the lease signing.  In this case, two heads are definitely better than one!

What do you all think? Any good tips for knowing your $ is in good hands? Or, do you just take a deep breath and hope super hard?

Author My First Apartment
Alissa

Posted by

I've lived in apartments in 6 cities (including 2 foreign countries). Does that make me an expert? As of now, my ceiling isn't leaking and I don't have rodents (knock on wood) -- so I'm going to say yes . . . but ask me again tomorrow:) These days, I'm enjoying life Chicago style, but my years in Brooklyn are never far from my mind. P.S. By day I work at GolinHarris, but these opinions are totally, 100% my own.

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