BBB Scam Alert: How to spot a credit check scam when apartment shopping

Planning a move this summer? According to multiple BBB Scam Tracker reports, scammers are using a new twist on fake rental ads to trick potential renters into compromising sensitive personal information.

While credit checks are a routine process many landlords and rental companies use to evaluate potential renters, fraudulent rental listings are being used to direct interested tenants to a website that requires personal information to run a credit check. Unfortunately, the website is a data-mining operation that collects and sells the information provided to the highest bidder, placing people who use it at an increased risk of having their identity stolen.

Most often encountered while browsing rental listings online, scammers entice victims by advertising a rental unit or home at prices significantly lower than what is typically found in the area. They may claim to represent an established property company or an individual landowner searching for trustworthy tenants. The listing often includes pictures, videos, layouts, and other specifics that renters expect to see included in a rental advertisement. Unfortunately, most of these pictures are either fabricated or stolen from a legitimate listing, and the supposed landowner quickly disappears after the applicant submits their information to the credit check website.

One consumer reported to BBB Scam Tracker they “gave my name, address and Social Security Number to obtain my credit score from this website. I was asked to take a screenshot of my score and send it to the same address that emailed me the link. Afterward, I was sent an email with a showing time, but the house number was not listed on this email or the listing on Craigslist.” All additional attempts to call and email the supposed landowner went unanswered.

To avoid credit check rental scams, Better Business Bureau recommends renters:

Be wary of lower-than-usual prices. If the rent for an apartment or home is significantly less than the going market rate for the area, consider it a red flag. Scammers often draw people in with claims that sound too good to be true. Spend the time to compare the price with other similar rental properties in the area to make an informed decision.

Do some research. Search the listing online through multiple sources using the associated phone number, email address or physical address. If you find another listing for the same property in a different city, you’ve spotted a scam. Reverse image searches can be helpful to determine if the photos have been stolen from another listing, as well as searching for the landowner’s name to check if anyone else has encountered a scam when interacting with them.

Always see the property in person. Many rental scams involve listings for properties that don’t exist, are vacant lots, or are for sale. Be very wary if the property owner refuses to disclose the rental property’s location before you complete a credit check or pay them a deposit. If the address provided is for a house that has a ‘For Sale’ sign in the yard, be cautious because you might not be in contact with the actual owners.

Verify the property owner’s information. Contact a licensed real estate agent to see who owns a property or check the county’s property appraiser website. Ask the property owner for a copy of their ID to verify they are who they claim to be before you offer sensitive information like your Social Security Number for a credit check.

Be cautious about credit check websites. Scammers are well-versed in making websites appear legitimate and often create fake testimonials and reviews. Use reputable sources to prove credit history, such as or consumer reporting companies listed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

For more information about how to avoid scams while moving and renting, visit