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How to avoid rental scams during your internship abroad

Rental scams when interning abroad

An internship abroad could be the perfect opportunity to bolster your resume and gain tons of new experiences and skills. It’s a highly beneficial option for people looking to fast-track their careers but there are specific issues you need to be aware of. Rental scams, in particular, are one of the most troubling problems you may face. Here’s how you can avoid getting scammed. 

What’s the situation?

Previously, we spoke about how to find the perfect accommodation for your internship abroad while also discussing the housing crisis. It’s not easy uprooting your life and moving to another country — no matter how short the period of time — which is exactly why extra caution needs to be taken when doing so.

With the ongoing housing crisis around the world, more and more people find themselves caught up in housing scams. It’s quite a dire situation, with overseas students and interns becoming easy targets for scammers looking to make a quick buck off of them.

Property prices are increasing with little to no cap, and this provides scammers with fertile ground to start their schemes and profit. 

In order to protect yourself from housing scams, there are a few steps you need to take.

Identifying scams

The first step to protecting yourself from housing scams is to know how to identify one. Here are some of the most common types.

Quick and easy

Ever encountered a listing that claims you don’t need to sign anything to get the place? Well, that’s a red flag right there. 

Usually (and especially with foreigners), renting a place takes a bit of documentation and is a slightly difficult process. If somebody is listing a place for rent and is requesting exactly none of the documentation but only an advance on the property, that right there is more likely to be a scam than not!

Avoiding rental scams

Sign or lose it

Take this scenario as an example. You’ve found a pretty solid place. It fits all your requirements. It’s close to your office, it has the right number of rooms, it has all the amenities and all for a really affordable price. Too affordable, in fact! It almost sounds too good to be true!

This is a common tactic used by scammers to lure you in. They’ll even set it up to look like there are a lot of people interested in it. This way, they can coerce people into making a quick deposit or transfer in order to ‘secure the spot’. Often, there is no ‘spot’ to begin with! They’ve simply stolen images of a real location to use for the listing.

Wire transfers

If you find a house, apartment or any other accommodation listing requesting that you wire transfer for anything from the application fee to a security deposit, you can be confident that it is a scam.

Wire transfers are quick and instantaneous, making it a great way for scammers to get your money and disappear. You won’t even be able to request a reversal of the transfer! Rental scams are not even the only types of scams that wire transfers enable.

Less than meets the eye

Who wouldn’t love a luxury multi-bedroom house to lounge in at the fraction of the cost it would usually be listed for? It’s enticing, and when supported by gorgeous, aesthetic images of a beautiful dwelling and luxurious descriptions of the amenities that await you, it’s almost impossible to resist! 

This is exactly what scammers want. They will often put up pictures and descriptions of accommodation, promising the moon and the stars, when in reality, none of this is on offer. Since agreements are legally binding, all scammers have to do is get the renter to sign the lease. 

Upon finally seeing the place in person, the renter is let down by the lack of facilities and amenities previously promised to them.

Background checks

A really easy way for scammers to make some money off of people is to put up fake listings and have them pay for background checks. 

While background checks are common and often necessary, there is certainly a limit to how much a potential tenant ought to pay for the landlord to conduct one. These scammers would often put up fake listings and demand ridiculous amounts of money from applicants in order to ‘perform background checks’ on them.

While locals may recognise that these amounts are far too high, foreigners may not be able to. If, for example, you’re attempting to secure an apartment in the USA, and the ‘landlord’ asks you to pay $200 to $300 (or more) for background checks, this is most likely a scam.

While these are some common scams, people are finding newer and more innovative ways to con people out of their money. So, how do you avoid getting scammed?

Avoiding scams

Yes, scammers are getting more creative but no matter what they say or do, if you take the following steps, you’ll be able to protect yourself from scams better. 

Step one: Research thoroughly

Researching doesn’t simply mean looking up multiple accommodations that fit your needs but also diving into the minute details and making sure these places are authentic. To do so, you can reverse-search images to make sure that these are original pictures and not ones ripped off of other postings or from somebody else’s personal photos.

You can also do the same for descriptions in order to see if there are similar descriptions (word for word) posted elsewhere. If the landlord’s details are up, make sure to Google them and see who they are. 

If it is possible, speak to the current tenants (if any). This may not always be a viable option, but if it is, you can gain a better understanding of who the landlord is, what the place is like, and what it would be like to rent it. 

Sometimes, scams don’t just happen at the start. Landlords may even attempt to trap you with ridiculous rent increments or poor amenities that you may not even be aware of until you end up living at the place.

Never, ever wire money

Wiring money in order to secure an accommodation is a bad idea. It’s far too easy for scammers to simply get your money and disappear. Always opt for payment methods that are verifiable, reversible and that leave a paper trail.

Additionally, don’t make any payments without having signed a lease first.

Don’t share personal information

There are scams that don’t require you to pay in advance. Instead, these clever scammers seek your personal information, such as your bank details and social security number. Be extremely wary of such requests and always double-check what is necessary and what is not prior to providing this information.

Read the lease thoroughly before signing

Ask for a tour

The best way to make sure you’re renting a real place and not falling for a scam is to ask for a tour. If you’re not in a position to physically tour the place, you can always set up a virtual meeting and have the landlord take you through the place on a video call.

Some may be reluctant to do so for various reasons but in these scenarios, even if they are legitimate, you are better off finding a different spot than taking the risk as you’d have a lot to lose if it is, in fact, a scam.

Most of these scams rely on people not asking for tours as they’ve opted for fake listings of places they have no right to rent out. 

Talk to your internship provider

If you’ve received your internship placement through an internship provider, chances are that they are better connected and would be more knowledgeable about the area. Reach out to them and ask them for help.

It’s perfectly fine to do so and it’s highly unlikely that your provider will deny the request to assist you in this scenario.

Final thoughts

It might sound like a lot of trouble to go through in order to rent a place, but getting caught up in a scam could be ten times as much work! Your internship abroad could be an amazing experience and you deserve to get the most out of it without worrying about being scammed.

Always exercise caution and make sure to read through any agreement thoroughly. You can even have a lawyer vet any contract before you enter it for an extra layer of protection! Read up on your rights as a tenant in the country you’ll be moving to. It’s the best thing you can do to ensure that your stay there is safe and comfortable.



Kahless is a writer with a special interest in sociology. He spends much of his free time travelling, reading, writing, and stopping his cats from ripping apart everything he owns. It’s advised to bring along a strong cup of coffee (3 espresso shots minimum) when approaching him.

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