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Snappt's Blog

This blog focuses on topics such as identifying fraud, reducing evictions and lowering bad debt in the multifamily housing industry.

Growing Threat of Rental Application Fraud

Evictions have risen sharply since COVID-19 hit. According to  2020 Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Residential Rentals survey, evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic are up 75 percent compared to before the pandemic. Even in the best of times, evictions are an expensive process with costs averaging $7,568. Now, with a national moratorium on evictions, costs have skyrocketed.


While the best defense is to thoroughly vet tenants before they move in, we are seeing an alarming increase in application fraud. Property managers report that 29 percent of rental applications have been fraudulently altered to make the applicant look more credit-worthy than they actually are.



Template Farms

Let’s say you’ve just been laid off but need to rent a new apartment. No paystub means no apartment, right? Actually, sites like Online-paystub.com or ThePayStubs.com can generate a paystub for you that says whatever you need it to say. With advertising claims such as “Pay Stubs Online - Accurate, Easy & Instant Paychecks,” these template farms make it surprisingly simple to generate fake paystubs.


As a property manager, how can you tell whether a paystub is authentic or fake? Honestly, it is practically impossible for a property manager to spot the fakes. Our best advice is to contact the employer to verify employment, but even that doesn’t verify an applicant’s salary. 



Digital Alteration

Maybe your checking statement shows too low of a balance for you to nab that sweet penthouse. Tools like Photoshop can fix that! A balance of $394.21 is easily altered to read $228,394.21. If the applicant is new to this game, the fake can be easy to spot. Maybe they use the wrong font, or make the extra digits too large. If the applicant is skilled, however, the result can be impossible for a layman to spot.


Gaining a technology that employs extensive metadata that tells us when a statement has been altered. This is critical because visually, many altered statements appear genuine even to our experts! But metadata doesn’t lie, enabling us to spot more than 99 percent of digitally-altered documents.


PDF Generators

This is digital alteration’s cousin. PDF Generators, such as PDFfiller, take a baseline document (say, from Bank of America) and makes it form-fillable, allowing fraudulent actors to create their own information on an authentic form. Again, this results in a document that is virtually impossible to detect visually.  



What if you’re not savvy enough (or too lazy) to create these fraudulent documents yourself? No problem! Just go to Craigslist or other online marketplaces that can create fraudulently-altered financial documentation for you (for a fee, of course). Do a quick Google search for “fake bank statement services” and you’ll find no shortage of people willing to help. They know all the tricks and, in no time, will send you documents that are impossible for the layman to identify as fake. Yet, they still leave behind the digital breadcrumbs that our systems and people can spot.


Times are Tough – Double Down on Vetting your Applicants

As the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. These days, that’s the mantra for many shady rental applicants. That may explain the fact that one in four renters think it’s acceptable to fraudulently alter financial documents when applying to rent an apartment.


Fortunately, property managers are not defenseless against these fraudulent techniques. Make sure you employ state-of-the-art tactics to spot fraudsters and keep them out of your building.

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