When looking for the perfect apartment, the last thing you need is a rental scam. But if you believe you've become the victim of an apartment rental scam in the United States, the federal government wants to know about it.
Many people aren't aware that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal consumer protection agency, accepts rental scam complaints. But the more people who notify the FTC about a rental scam, the more likely the scam will be stopped and the landlords or impostors behind the scam brought to justice.
What's the FTC?
The FTC is a federal agency that helps consumers, including apartment tenants, prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help consumers identify and avoid scams.
Why Report a Scam?
It's a good idea to report a scam to the FTC, even if you've taken other steps, such as contact the police.
- You might be able to help bring the individuals behind the scam to justice.
- You might be able to get your money back (if the individuals are caught).
- You can help prevent others from falling victim to the same scam.
- It costs nothing and requires little effort.
- It can help take away a feeling you may have of being a powerless victim.
How to File a Complaint
You can file a complaint about an apartment scam by phone or online. To begin, call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant.
The FTC will enter your complaint into Consumer Sentinel, its secure, online database that's accessible to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies across the United States and abroad.
Tips for Completing the Online Form
The online complaint form is straightforward and shouldn't take long to complete. Keep these tips in mind as you work on the form:
- Identify the scam victim. You may complete the form for yourself, or you may do it on behalf of someone else who has been scammed (such as a family member or friend), with that person's permission. Either way, be sure to indicate this, for clarity's sake, in Step 1 when completing the form.
- Report scammers only if you believe they're based in the United States. Note that the FTC complaint form is intended for reporting alleged scammers in the United States. If you know or have reason to believe that the person or company that scammed you is located in a different country, visit econsumer.gov.
- Skip around. The form doesn't require you to proceed in order, so feel free to skip around. At any point within a step, you can skip to the next page, if you like, then return by clicking "Back" at any time. Once you've finished viewing the last page of Step 1, you'll see tabs at the top for all five steps. You can then select any step by clicking its tab. If you decide to jump around, review your work before submitting your completed form.
- Don't take long breaks. A session with the FTC Complaint Assistant expires after five minutes of inactivity. You can extend your session by clicking "OK" when an alert message appears on the screen.
- ¿Habla español? If you prefer to complete the form in Spanish, visit the Spanish version of the FTC Complaint Assistant ("Asistente de Queja de la FTC").
Scam or Illegal Discrimination?
In addition to rental scams, many apartment hunters experience housing discrimination, which can be just as -- if not more -- unpleasant.
If you believe the problem you experienced was illegal discrimination, you can consider filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the federal agency with primary responsibility for enforcing the Fair Housing Act.