What is a Rental Scam?
Rental scams are a variation on a theme. The scammer tries to get money from a prospective tenant for an apartment that the scammer is in no legal position to rent.
The apartment might be real (in which case, the scammer doesn't have the authority to lease it) or fictitious. The scammer could be a real landlord or, more likely, an impostor.
Remember the mantra, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is".
If the going rate for a 2-bedroom, 2-bath home in your preferred neighborhood is $1,000 per month, be very cautious of listings for the same size/amenities priced significantly lower. It may be that the home is a dump, it may be the home is in a bad location, but it’s most likely a scammer is trying to bait you with a super-low price to a property they don’t own. Their goal is to make contact with you in hopes of getting a credit card number, any personally identifying property or a fee to "hold the property" for you. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Keep that mantra in the back of your head.
If someone asks you pay without seeing the property and signing a lease, don’t do it.
As a renter, under no circumstances should you be required to pay a rental fee or security deposit to the landlord before being allowed to view the property. Doing so may result in the loss of your money even if you are using a reputable payment source; even PayPal will not reimburse you when real estate-related transactions go bad. In addition, as a landlord you should never help a future tenant relay money to yourself or other parties via money transfers, cashiers checks or wires. As a note of caution, the most-trafficked avenues for scammers dealing with the exchange of funds are money transfers, cashiers checks or wires. This is because they are hard to track, can be collected anywhere in the world and can be easy to forge.
As a rule of thumb it is always best to refrain from giving out any personally identifiable information or credit card/bank information over the Internet or phone, especially if the situation doesn’t feel quite right.
The common practice in the Cayman Islands is to pay one month security deposit at the time of signing the lease and the first month before moving in.