How to avoid becoming a victim of fake landlord scams in Detroit

Fake landlords in Detroit are tricking tenets into paying them money to rent homes they don't actually own.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued an alert Tuesday about scams that target renters. The alert comes after an NBC News and Outlier Media investigation found that many renters are being ripped off.

Types of rental scams

According to Nessel's office, the investigation showed that sometimes landlords who have lost their houses to foreclosure do not tell their tenets and keep collecting rent. Other times, fake landlords have broken into abandoned houses to change the locks and list them for rent. 

Another scam to be on the lookout for is a rental listing that is copied from a legitimate site. Scammers have been known to post rentals that they do not own to get money from potential tenants.

Sometimes, scammers will completely make up a rental listing to trick victims into sending money.

Rental scam warning signs

You're asked to wire money - Once you send money through a wire transfer, there's no way to get it back. This includes being asked to use payment apps, gift cards or cryptocurrency. Scammers know this and will try to rely on this uncommon form of payment to collect a security deposit or a rent payment.

You're asked to provide a security deposit or first month's rent before touring or signing a lease - No legitimate rental company or landlord will ask you to pay up front for an apartment or house you haven't seen. You also should not be asked to provide a payment prior to finalizing a lease, aside from an application fee. If you can't visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go for you to verify the listing is legitimate.  

You find the listing under different names - Just like it's important to see the property yourself, it's also important to search it online. If the same ad is listed on multiple sites, verify the details are consistent across listings. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, it may be a scam.

You learn the landlord is out of town - Initial steps are taken and it's time to move to meeting, but the contact suddenly informs you they're unavailable and will be using someone else to finalize a lease and get you the keys. Some scammers will go as far as making a fake key for a property.  

How to report rental scams

Report rental scams in Michigan to Consumer Protection:

By mail
P.O. Box 30213  
Lansing, MI 48909  

By phone
Toll free: 877-765-8388  

By fax

Consumer complaint form