Don’t fall for these devious Portland apartment scams – OregonLive

Apartment List has information on places for rent across the U.S.
The Portland rental market is not as frenzied as it has been with rents holding steady, and yet some potential tenants feeling the pressure to act fast are finding themselves being scammed.
Experts believe that almost half of renters across the country have encountered a listing they suspected was fraudulent and most looked elsewhere.
Of those who fell for the fraud, some lost around $1,000 by paying a security deposit or rent for a property that doesn’t exist, is different than advertised or was listed on Craigslist or other classified sites by fake landlords, according to, an online rental platform that verifies landlords and tenants.
March 2020 Portland Rent Report
What are red flags? If the asking rent is low, be suspicious. Before you share personal information with someone posing as a landlord, know what you should expect to pay in that market.
A just-released report by Apartment List predicts Portland’s median rent for a two bedroom will be $1,325 in March, which is a slight bump of 0.1% over this month.
Another warning: If there is no required background or credit check, and you’re being rushed to pay upfront in cash, be leery.
Terry Rusinow, who owns two Northeast Portland vacation rentals, spends time on Craigslist every day flagging photos of her properties that are being misrepresented by scammers.
Two years ago, a woman showed up at Rusinow’s doorstep, explaining that she’d paid $1,600 to rent the home for two months. The woman had driven from Texas, her car packed with her belongings.
“I was in shock," said Rusinow. “She was in shock. I said, ‘Let’s go to the police.’ But she just left. She was blown away.”
Another couple told Rusinow that they were out $1,400.
A man and a woman from Vancouver, Washington, who thought they were renting their first place, said the man’s dad, a lawyer, even reviewed the application and thought it looked legitimate.
The fake ads on Craigslist use Rusinow’s photos, description of the home and address. Fake correspondence is written in her name.
“People come by and knock on the door to ask, ‘Are you renting your place?’” she said. “People are desperate, naïve or see a great deal and grab it. I try to get the word out about scams.”
Craigslist advises people to deal in person with the other party and warns people not to wire money.
Confirm the owner’s identity: Go to or contact the county assessor’s office or public records to find the owner’s name. If there are two owners, make sure both are agreeing to rent the home. Ask for a photo ID when you meet in person. If a property management company or building manager represents the owner, conduct an online search for feedback and reviews on how they handle business.
Confirm the address matches exterior photos: Look at Google maps’ street view or conduct a reverse image search by right-clicking the images and selecting “search Google” or go to TinEye to see if the photos are being used to list an apartment in another city. Fake landlords often use photos of homes for sale on real estate databases like Redfin or Zillow as well as short-term rentals from vacation stays sites like Airbnb or Vrbo.
Tour the place before you pay anything: If you can’t see the home yourself, ask a friend or friend of a friend to go inside (do not just drive by) and ensure the photos match reality. Most online rental platforms will schedule tours to meet the person who has the rights to rent the unit. While there, talk to current tenants to hear if there are any issues.
Sign an Oregon rental lease agreement: The contract should be signed by the owner in your presence and you should receive a copy of the lease before you pay. Anyone who claims to represent the owner should have documents to prove this. Verify everything in the advertisement, or promised verbally, is spelled out in the lease before signing or paying a deposit. Once you’ve signed the lease, you are most likely bound to the apartment, as is, says Apartment List.
Don’t pay with cash: A reputable landlord will not insist on receiving the security deposit and rents in cash, which can’t be traced, or through Western Union, PayPal, iTunes, Zelle or other types of wire transfers. If you’re sure you want to live there, pay with a personal check or cashier’s check. Some owners accept credit cards.
What to do if you have been scammed
There are many free real estate databases such as OregonLive’s, where you can search Oregon apartment listings and use local resources.
Before paying a service to provide a list of rental properties, check if there are complaints with the Better Business Bureau or negative reviews online. If the listings are fake or expired, you can’t get a refund and you may be billed monthly for continuing to use the service you can’t cancel.
–Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072 | @janeteastman
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