HSU Housing and IT Work to Stop Rental Scams
Since 2018, Humboldt State Information Technology Services has worked with Housing & Residence Life and other California State University campuses to identify fake rental listings and help students, faculty, staff, and alumni avoid housing scams.
The CSU-wide database of rental scams recently reached 1,000 entries, expanding protections for communities. Teams at the CSUs identify scammers by template emails, reused terms, and other indicators, and they build filters to catch messages as they come in.
Locally, email accounts known as fake rentals attracted up to a dozen responses per address. Non-local addresses generally attracted one interested tenant. These email accounts are associated with fake rental listings on a variety of websites and services including Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, apartments.com, Zumper, and others. Stephen St. Onge, Associate Vice President for Student Success, suggests contacting staff for help. “Our Off-Campus Housing Coordinator, Chant’e Catt, is the best resource for students and her listings are vetted and up to date.”
Information Technology Services quarantines emails from the fake “landlords,” or removes them after detection/delivery and notifies recipients. Outgoing emails to known fake accounts are redirected to HSU’s spam account instead of being delivered.
Rental and housing scams cost victims in the U.S. more than $213 million according to the FBI, of which fake rentals are expected to be a sizable portion. Because not every scam victim files a complaint with the FBI, though, the actual damage is likely much larger. HSU Housing and Information Security continue to work to expand the database of housing scams and protect campus communities.
“As we know, it can be difficult for students, staff, and faculty to find housing in the area, and rental scams prey on people desperate for housing,” says Catt. “Identifying and protecting people from fake rentals is one of the many ways HSU works to secure safe, affordable housing for the campus community.”
A rental is more than likely fake/fraudulent if one or more of the following statements are true:
• they don’t want to/allegedly can’t meet you in person
• they want you to move in immediately, without ever seeing the property
• they ask for rent or a security deposit before signing a lease
• the price is too good
• the listing has typos, poor grammar, or excessive punctuation
• there is no screening process
• they want you to sign an incomplete lease
• Meet the landlord, or property manager in person
• See the property in person (not just from the outside)