With the rise of real estate prices in recent months, rental units are in high demand, particularly on marketplaces like Facebook. In fact, scammers nowadays are getting more creative, using tactics like deepfake listings to legitimate-looking contracts.
We at Confirm understand the crucial need to warn our users about the increased risk of rental scams. In this read, we are going to discuss the different types of rental scams on Facebook Marketplace. We will also give you pointers on how to avoid getting scammed about renting on Facebook.
What Are Rental Scams?
Rental scams involve scammers who create fraudulent listings at low prices to lure potential victims. We found that they typically populate marketplaces, especially Facebook’s, due to the platform’s accessibility and number of users.
Rental scammers request upfront deposits without providing proof of ownership of the lease. Once the deposit is paid, they block the renter.
There is also a new rental scheme where the swindlers offer lease services for special occasions. This type of Marketplace scam became widespread on Facebook after the pandemic, as people started hosting huge gatherings again.
Types Of Facebook Marketplace Rental Scams
There are six types of rental cons that populate Facebook. These are the following:
Ad Hijacking Scam
This is a type of rental scam where scammers grab Facebook listings from a realtor or copy listings from the page of a real estate agency. They then change the affiliated contact number to theirs.
Some swindlers who do ad hijacking even go as far as meeting the victims in person. They pose as an agent or a broker during an open house.
A common attribute to ad hijacking lease fraud is they are listed way below rent prices. There are cases when potential victims also see the original listing on Facebook. However, when fraudsters are asked about the low lease price, the usual answer is they are “direct to owner” brokers, dissuading the victim from contacting the agency.
The best way to avoid this is to verify the identity of the person you are in contact with. Confirm allows you to create and share government-verified digital IDs without the need to share deeply personal information about yourself other than your legal name and photo. Our platform helps filter out scammers, as most of them will refuse to verify their real legal identity.
In cases where properties are involved, both parties need to know each other’s legal name. After all, these are needed to draft a proper contract. Real estate agents even share IDs the moment they introduce themselves.
Phantom lease schemes are when a scammer creates a listing for properties or equipment that does not exist. The scammers usually take the images from a random person or website. However, more advanced scammers create “deepfake” images (using AI software) to fake the pictures. This makes it hard to detect some fakes via reverse image search.
The aim of this scam is to pressure the renter into giving them a deposit before the victim figures out the lease is fake. If they sense the renter desperately needs property or equipment, they can even send a fake lease agreement.
Usually, lease agreements and contracts are given to the renter after the initial payment. In this case, the victim is easily urged to give any amount as the contract was already given. This strategy also prevents the renter from requesting a property viewing.
Once payment is sent, the scammer will block you on Facebook. They will also delete the listing so they can no longer be reported.
Much like ad hijacking scams, be sure you’re verifying the legal identity of the person you are transacting with before agreeing to anything.
A service hijacking scam is a type of scam where the vendor claims to provide lease services for events, such as bridal cars, mobile bars, photobooths, and grazing table booths, among others. They snatch photos and details from real event businesses on Facebook and pass them off as their own.
The listing even includes fake reviews from “customers” who “rented” their “booths.” Some of them seem legitimate, too, especially those that include videos from the event. However, the truth is the videos were taken from random people who participated in the said event.
This scam is getting more popular because a large initial deposit (usually 50%) is required to book services for an event.
It’s best to verify the legitimacy of the people or businesses you are transacting with. Only make transactions with those whose business or personal identity you can verify. If they get defensive when you ask them about their legitimacy, back out—there are plenty of other service providers you can hire.
There are also swindlers who do not aim to get money out of the fraudulent transaction. Instead, they want your personal information for card fraud or identity theft. This is commonly known as a phishing scam.
This type of scam involves sending you an online form right after your initial inquiry on Facebook. They’ll ask you to fill in details like your name, date of birth, contact number, address, email, serial number of valid IDs, social security number, and credit card data. The scammer will let you know they need all this information to book a walk-through of the lease unit.
Some even go the extra mile to claim that it is for “background-checking purposes” and verify if you are a legitimate renter. The scammer will then block you after it’s been filled out.
However, remember this one hard rule: legitimate agents will never ask for all this sensitive data just for property viewing. The most they will need is your name and preferred contact information. With Confirm, the process of exchanging this basic information is even more simplified and secure. The landlord can simply request your link; in turn, he can also share his.
Scams Tied With Serious Theft
As scary as it sounds, criminals also exploit lease listings to lure victims and commit physical theft. They will use ad hijacking to list existing lease units. They use ad hijacking to list existing lease units and then suggest viewing the properties or services together.
However, they’ll ask you to meet at a different location first, often making excuses like running an errand or saving time if you travel together. If you agree to this arrangement, they can rob you when you get to the location.
To prevent this from happening, never agree to meet a person in a different place. Once you have a verified digital ID on Confirm, you can even use our platform to track meetup times and locations. Since Confirm only allows verified individuals onto its platform, you can meet with your potential renter fully knowing what their legal name is and what they look like.
Motor Vehicle Larceny
Instead of pressuring the renter to pay a deposit, car rental scams involve scammers who steal your motor vehicles and sell them for parts.
Swindlers start by creating a fraudulent car rental listing, often impersonating legitimate agents. They then target potential victims who have their own vehicles, filtering their inquiries to find suitable victims. Afterward, they arrange a meetup with the intention of stealing the victim’s car or motorcycle.
Typically, scammers snatch valuable car parts from the stolen vehicle—things like the engine, interiors, body panels, windshields, brakes, exhaust, and more. They sell these parts below their assessed value to quickly get rid of the stolen goods. Ironically, the preferred platform for selling these stolen car parts is also Facebook Marketplace.
As for the rest of your vehicle, it ends up in a chop shop. Victims rarely find their stolen cars ever again.
If you are renting a car on Facebook, verify the vendor’s identity with Confirm and check their Marketplace profile. Be sure they have high ratings and legitimate reviews.
How To Spot Rental Scammers On Facebook
It requires hypervigilance to detect lease frauds in Facebook Marketplace. Sometimes, the red flags are not obvious due to the authentic look of the fake listing.
Here are the things we encourage our users to look for in order to spot these rental scams:
Photos with watermarks
The first thing you must do is look for watermarks on the picture. Legitimate brokers or realtors use separate photos for their listings in Facebook Marketplace. They do not reuse the photos they use in Multiple Listing Services (MLS) because these contain MLS watermarks—which don’t look very professional.
Scammers can also use stock images, so be on the lookout for watermarks from deposit photos, shutter stock, adobe stock, and other image stock sites. The watermarks can be seen easily, but the scammer will blur the letters.
Low rent prices
If the rental unit’s price seems too good to be true, it’s likely a scam. Scammers attract potential victims with unrealistically low prices. Once they get an inquiry, they use high-pressure tactics to convince the renter to pay a deposit upfront.
Check the amenities and size of the property. Be sure the price matches what it offers. For example, the usual rent for a one-bedroom apartment in a covered complex is $1,600+. However, swindlers will list this estate at around $1,000.
They can also say the prices are discounted due to an ongoing promo. Some will even tell you how the promotion is “ending soon,” so you are pressured to make a decision.
Legitimate sellers on Facebook Marketplace don’t have the luxury of using “promos” to attract buyers. From our experience, what you see should be what you get.
No address on the listing
Fraudsters who sell phantom rentals will not include the exact address of the unit. This will prevent you from checking if it exists.
When you request for the address or a property viewing, they will come up with excuses. They will say they are fully booked for viewings. Also, they can tell you they cannot disclose the address for “security reasons” and that they can only share the address once you are ready to sign a lease agreement.
Remember, legitimate agents or brokers will give you as much information as possible to secure the listing. The address of the leased unit should be disclosed even before rental negotiations. They provide this data so the renter can verify the legitimacy of the lease unit.
Pressure to pay the initial deposit
Legitimate landlords, brokers, and agents will never ask you to pay the deposit without you seeing the unit. In fact, they will insist you do a quick walk-through of the lease to help you arrive at a decision.
Swindlers will pressure you to pay the deposit without a walk-through. They will say there is a long waitlist for estate viewing. Thus, they prioritize “renters who are ready to sign a contract.” Never ever rush rental transactions—they involve big money.
Messages from a different person
There are times when you do not have to contact the scammer directly. The scammer can also contact you.
Some fraudsters monitor the listings of legitimate agents. When you comment on a public listing, the fraudsters are made aware that you can be a potential victim and directly message you on Facebook.
If they can see your email from your profile, they can also send you an email. They will claim to be assistants or representatives of the agent with the original listing.
Not every type of email or message of this kind that you will receive is fake. That’s why it’s important to verify the identity of the person you’re contacting. Confirm lets its users create digital identities by uploading their government ID for verification.
You can create your own ConfirmID and share a link that will require the person you’re speaking to make or share their own well. This should allow you both to see each other’s legal names (as well as photos) and verify one another’s identities.
Insistence on payment through wire transfers or payment apps
Scammers usually require their victims to pay using non-traditional means, such as wire transfers, checks, cash, and gift cards. They can also urge you to pay using other applications like PayPal.
These non-standard payment methods make it difficult to cancel or dispute remittances. Your money is long gone even if you successfully filed a ticket for fraud. Paypal, for instance, rarely issues refunds for fraudulent payment claims. In fact, if the buyer permits it, use cash instead—especially for physical meetups.
Filling out an information sheet
Scammers will try to get your sensitive information out of you by telling you to fill out an online form before you can view the properties. This can ask for your full name, date of birth, address, credit card info, serial number of valid IDs, and social security number.
Sharing these details puts you at risk of identity theft. Legitimate landlords or agents only need your name and contact number for walk-throughs. Landlords who use Confirm can even streamline this process—the both of you can simply exchange links to verify each other’s identities and schedule a meetup.
Shipping the property key
Scammers can come up with a myriad of excuses to avoid property viewing. They will also pressure you to sign a lease with just a virtual tour. If you do sign the lease, they might claim they’re out of the country and will mail you the property key.
Naturally, they will ask you for a certain amount before shipping the key. Once you send the remittance, they will block you on Facebook.
Real renters don’t ship property keys unless you’ve already seen the property. They typically even meet you personally and tour you around the place themselves.
How to Avoid Rental Scams
It pays to be hypervigilant when it comes to rental listings. As the renter, you have every right to get adequate information to make an informed decision.
Here are some tips to avoid these scams:
Do a reverse image search
First, verify images on Facebook Marketplace by using a reverse image search through Google. To do this, just left-click on the image and choose “Search image with Google.” This opens a new tab displaying where else the image has been used. Click on the images to view the people who have similar listings.
Scammers doing ad hijacking often grab pictures from real estate company websites. Therefore, a link to the company will also pop up. You can contact them to know if the person you are transacting with is legitimate.
Be aware that photo fraudsters often crop or blur watermarks on photos. When you perform a reverse image search, you’ll see the original pictures with complete watermarks.
It is not enough to trust the name of the agent or broker. You should verify their legal identity by asking for a valid ID. However, since IDs can be faked and provide too much sensitive information, Confirm has provided a solution in the form of digital IDs.
Users can create a ConfirmID using a government-issued ID for identity verification. We use Persona, a trusted identity verification service, to ensure the authenticity of the information provided. Once you’ve created your ConfirmID, you can use this to share your identity and prove you’re a real person.
Rentees with ConfirmIDs can send invitations to the people they are in contact with and ask them to create a ConfirmID, too. This should allow both of you to verify the legitimacy of your identities.
If they are claiming to be a part of an agency, do your due diligence and look for an official site. You can contact or email the agency to verify if the person you are talking to is actually affiliated with them. Also, ask the person to show you their real estate card or broker licenses.
If you are renting a service, you can ask for their business permits. Small-time swindlers typically don’t bother with fake permits since legitimate businesses are publicly registered. As such, you can verify their legitimacy by checking the government website of the province where they registered their business and looking up their name.
Rental scammers will also either redirect you to check their Facebook page or block you when you request to see the permits.
Check for similar listings
Next, explore similar listings suggested at the bottom of the listing/item page. Message individuals with listings featuring identical pictures and data. This way, you can discern which listing is legitimate.
Scammers churn out numerous new listings daily on Facebook Marketplace, ensuring their posts are often at the top. For safety, contact everyone with the same listing to identify the legitimate agent (if there is one).
While reaching out to many people with the same listing might be a bit of work, the effort pays off by safeguarding your lease transactions.
Search for the address
If the agent provided the address of the unit, search for it. You can use Google Maps and Street View to see the properties. This helps you confirm if the lease really even exists.
Legitimate brokers or agents always share the address of their lease units. They will even send you links to view the property online in real-time, even if you did not ask for it.
Of course, there are swindlers who also share the addresses of the lease unit. This applies to cases of ad and service hijacking. To verify, use other listing sites (like realtor.com). These sites don’t allow multiple listings of the same property and display details like listing agents, broker companies, and real estate agencies. If the person you’re communicating with isn’t the listed agent, consider it a red flag.
Request a property viewing from the seller
If you are going to rent a service or a product, we at Confirm put great emphasis on needing to set up a meeting in person. This way, you can see the rentals truly exist.
Swindlers will almost immediately deny any viewing. They can come up with excuses like they are out of the country or indisposed. However, they will still urge you to pay a deposit without seeing the lease.
Moreover, legitimate lease dealings will require you to have a real-life meeting with an agent. This is done so they can show you the building and amenities. This meeting is where they also discuss the regulations of the building and their proposed leasing terms.
Of course, there are legitimate agents who are overbooked with property viewings. These people can provide virtual tours of the place, especially if you live far from it. However, it is still best for you to see the property yourself. You should never have to insist on this with the agent. Real sellers will still find the time to show you the lease, even if there is a waitlist.
Never sign a lease agreement without seeing the rental.
Do not use non-standard payment methods
We’ve mentioned this before, but we have to emphasize it again. It is tempting to pay the deposit with non-traditional yet extremely convenient payment methods like cash or wire transfers, but don’t. Always opt for standard remittance methods. This can be credit card, check, or debit payments. This way, your bank or card company can track your payments.
When making payments via checks, avoid using cashier’s checks. These can be deposited by anyone. Only issue checks specifically addressed to individuals or entities, such as the unit owner’s name or the broker’s company.
The recipient should also never be the name of the listing agent. It is a huge red flag when they ask you to put their name on the check—they are not allowed to do so.
Bank transfers are still a good option. However, if you end up paying a deposit to a scammer, the investigation process takes a long time. The scammer can simply withdraw your deposit and close their account.
Rental decisions should never be rushed, especially when a substantial deposit is involved. A ton of scammers out there will push you to sign that contract and obligate you to pay the deposit.
Reading reviews and testimonials on Facebook Marketplace is not enough; do your due diligence to verify the legitimacy of the rental listing. It is also important to verify the legitimacy of your contact’s identity. Confirm can simplify this process by creating and sharing government-verified digital identities, which can filter out the bad actors.
Learn who you’re transacting with and Confirm today!
How do I report Facebook Marketplace scams?
You can report a fraudulent post by opening the scammer’s listing. Tap the button that has three dots on it and select “Report listing.” You can also report the scammer by clicking on “Seller details.” Another window will open, then choose the “Report” button.
What happens when I get scammed on Facebook?
When you get scammed, you can report it with the steps above. Facebook will then periodically update you about the progress of the investigation.
However, they cannot help you if you have already paid the deposit.
They can only provide the investigation report and suggest you seek legal action with the given documentation.
Can a scammer get my information?
Scammers can get your personal data from the public data you provide on Facebook. They may also get your sensitive data by sending you a data sheet. They can tell you you need to fill out all the details to schedule a viewing.