Identified Scam:

Cash App Rental Scam: The Big Red Flags to Look Out For

Scammers are taking advantage of renters desperate and in a rush to find a new home, stealing thousands from innocent people.


Verified.org
Updated 10 May 2021
Cash App Rental Scam: The Big Red Flags to Look Out For
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Identified Scam:

Key Finding

Scammers pose as landlords and ask for a rental deposit via Cash App before you're able to see the house/apartment for yourself.


Key Risk

Once you make the Cash App transfer, the scammer will take off with your money. You risk losing thousands of dollars.

Sections on this page
  1. How the Cash App Rental Scam Works
  2. How to Beat and Avoid Cash App Rental Scams
  3. Examples of Cash App Rental Scams
  4. Have You Fallen For This Cash App Rental Scam?
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

In the Cash App rental scam, scammers start out looking like trustworthy landlords, and the housing solution they offer seems almost too good. But, as with all cons, it’s too good to be true—, and the only thing your Cash App rental deposit will help move is the scammer’s bank account figures.

How the Cash App Rental Scam Works

What makes the scam so successful is the use of Cash App, which makes it very easy to send money but almost impossible to get it back, even in cases of fraud. Because of this, the scammer will do or say almost anything to get you to make a Cash App deposit—that’s how they ensure they get the money.

You’re also most likely to encounter this scam when using third-party sites like Craigslist or Zillow to look for housing options. Going through a bona fide real estate agent is unlikely to result in a Cash App deposit scam.

Versions of this scam have been around for years—but the rise of peer-to-peer money exchange apps has unfortunately made this type of rental scam more widespread than ever.

Still, it follows a classic and straightforward format.

You Find a Rental for a Great Price

Often with Cash App rental scams, the deals are too good to be true, with a decent house in a nice part of town going for a reasonable price.

Many listings include some sob story explaining why the property is available. Common explanations include that the owner had to leave quickly because of deployment or that there’s been a death in the family.

The Landlord Can't Show You the Place

Following the instructions on the property listing, you reach out to the landlord or property manager.

Usually, with Cash App deposit scams, the “landlord” will be out of town or otherwise unable or unwilling to meet up with you. (This is usually part of the same sob story explaining why the property’s up for rent.)

Still, things may seem normal at this point, with the “landlord” offering more details about the home and possibly scheduling a date and time to meet up at the property.

You’re Told to Make a Deposit On Cash App

This is where things take a turn.

Whether the scammer tells you that there’s a long line of people interested in the property, that the “landlord” is simply interested in making things easier, or any other type of story, you’ll be asked to make your rental deposit on Cash App.

Almost always, this scam involves asking you to make that deposit before you ever see the property or sign a lease.

Sometimes, scammers will milk this for all its worth and ask if you can even pay the first month or two up-front, as well.

Example Communication from Scammer

Unfortunately, as I am in the military and deployed out of state, I can't show you the apartment in person, but don't worry, it's clean and in good shape. 

You seem like a trustworthy candidate so I would like to offer you this place to rent. All I need is your rental deposit of $1,200 and I will ship you the keys via FedEx once I receive it. Please send payment via Cash App.

The “Landlord” Disappears

Are you transfer the money using Cash App, the “landlord” or “property owner” will disappear.

They won’t return your phone calls, text messages, or emails. If you did get an address for the property, they won’t be there. You may even find out they have nothing to do with the property at all.

It’s at this point, unfortunately, when you realize you’ve been scammed.

How to Beat and Avoid Cash App Rental Scams

Versions of the Cash App rental deposit scam have been around long before Cash App. It’s sadly one of the most persistent scams out there. However, you can easily beat it by following these tips:

  • Don't ever send money for rent or a deposit before seeing the rental for yourself or signing a lease. 
  • Don't pay rent or a deposit using Cash App. 
  • Rent from a legitimate site or real estate agency.

Cash App warns against sending money to strangers using the app, as they do not provide any protection against fraud. Only use Cash App to transfer money to people you know and trust.

Red Flags to Look Out For

There are a few red flags to look for when house hunting that may help you beat this type of scam before it even begins.

Starting with the listing itself, you should be wary of:

  • Grammatical errors, poor punctuation, or strange turns of phrase
  • A price/location that’s too good to be true
  • A landlord that can’t—or won’t—meet up with you
  • An over-the-top sob story about why the property is available or why the landlord can’t see you/is out of town
  • Vague details about the property itself, including:
    • Lack of an actual address
    • No photos, stock photos, or blurry photos

If you’ve started speaking with the “landlord,” make sure to look out for:

  • The lack of traditional “screening” processes, including:
    • Credit checks
    • Rental applications
  • Being pushed to move in right away—before even seeing the property.
  • Being pushed to pay the deposit before signing the lease or seeing the property.

How to Stay Safe When Renting

This Cash App rental scam can be avoided altogether by:

  • Working with a licensed property management company
  • Avoiding websites like Craigslist or the newspaper classified ads
  • Refusing to use Cash App, Venmo, or any other peer-to-peer money-exchange apps.

If you must make a deposit without seeing the property or meeting the landlord, use a personal check. (You have more leeway to cancel these with your bank before it’s too late.)

If you get an exact address from the landlord, you can also be more proactive about determining whether you’re dealing with a scam by:

  • Visiting the property in person, even without the “landlord” present.
  • Verifying the landlord or ownership of the property in question.
  • Asking to speak with current tenants.

Examples of Cash App Rental Scams

One of the latest examples of this Cash App rental deposit scam involved a woman looking to rent an apartment in Hollywood, California. Instead, she lost out on $400.

Often, this scam will start in a Craigslist ad. This listing includes many telltale signs, including strange phrases and poor grammar, a sob story explaining the owner’s absence, and pressure to “impress” the landlord with your application.

If you refuse to send the deposit via Cash App, remain wary if the landlord asks to use a different money transfer app or wire transfer. In this following example, an Los Angeles woman lost $2,000 after paying her deposit and realizing it was a scam on moving day when she never received her keys. 

The golden rule here is never to pay money for a rental that you have seen in person!

Have You Fallen For This Cash App Rental Scam?

Again, what makes this scam so successful for scammers is the way Cash App itself works. If you’ve already sent someone money on the app, it isn’t easy to get it back. As the company itself says, these transfers are “instant and usually can’t be canceled.” It’s possible to request the person refund your money through Cash App, though this is unlikely to work in the case of a scam.

Otherwise, you can contact Cash App directly through the company’s app or website. Use the opportunity to not only ask about your fraudulent payment but to report the scammer.

Report the Scam

You should also immediately report the fraudulent real estate listing with whichever website hosts the ad, whether it's Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or a different website.

You can also bring the case to the police. Make sure to have as many details ready as possible, including any correspondence you had with the scammer and proof of your payment. But keep in mind that if you legally and knowingly transfer the funds, there may be little they can do.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to pay rent or a rental deposit using Cash App?

It is not safe to pay your rental deposit using Cash App, especially if you haven't seen the house/apartment and/or don't have the keys. 

Does Cash App offer protection against scams?

No, Cash App doesn't currently offer any protection against scams or fraudulent activity. It's best to only transfer money to people you know and trust. If you need to pay rent or pay a rental deposit, it's safer to pay by check or another method that can be tracked and canceled if necessary.

What if I'm out of state and can't see the property for myself?

If you're unable to view the property for yourself, ask the landlord to walk you through it via a video call and wait until you've signed a contract before sending over any money. Also, ask if you can pay using a check instead of using Cash App. 

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