Self-guided tours are becoming increasingly popular with today’s tech-savvy renters who are growing increasingly accustomed to on-demand services. Self-guided tours allow prospects to schedule a convenient tour time and view properties on their own, at their own pace. However, self-guided tours require unique security considerations because these tours rely on interactive technology from start to finish. That may seem concerning at first. However, thanks to multiple layers of digital background checks, renters are protected from unwittingly becoming part of a scam. In this blog, we will explain how Rently uses industry-leading fraud prevention technology to make self-guided property tours safe for renters.
Although modern renters happily embrace technology in their everyday transactions, they must still be vigilant of potential risks related to ID theft, data protection, and fraud. Scammers abound, and renters should be aware of how they operate.
Today’s most popular rental scams are social engineering and squatting. Renters sometimes fall victim to these scams unless the proper safeguards are in place.
Social engineering is a method by which scammers misrepresent themselves to rental prospects in order to gain unauthorized access to a rental property. It occurs when scammers steal property listings from the Internet. Then, they post them – as their own – on other sites, such as Facebook or Craigslist. The scammer then poses as a landlord (or leasing employee) to collect deposit funds from victims.
Squatting is when a renter is tricked into unlawfully occupying a rental property. Often, this results when a renter believes they are the legitimate residents after they sent the scammer a deposit.
Other rental scams occur as a result of the misrepresentation or theft of renter identification, income/employment, or credit card data.
Renters are often asked to provide personal and sensitive data prior to property tours and during the application process. If their data is not appropriately verified and secured, they might become victims of identity theft.
Rently’s self-guided touring solution has many built-in safeguards to prevent the misuse of renter data and protect renters against all types of rental scams.
1. Secure Data Makes Self-Guided Tours Safe
Before engaging with any online site, renters should feel confident that they are entering a secure data network that has been hardened against hackers.
Rently prioritized security considerations early. We built in enterprise-grade security features that overlay our entire system architecture, traverse all of our online operations, and extend outwards to protect renters’ data.
Rently has implemented high-grade security protocols across all of our software platforms, network gateways, smart home devices, and mobile apps. In addition, we encrypt and secure all of the commands and data that is transiting our network.
By using this multi-layer, cross-functional approach, the Rently system architecture ensures “point-to-point” security. Ultimately, these secure network points mesh to create an end-to-end security framework. Every communication between a user and a device is authenticated and encrypted.
In fact, Rently encrypts all renter data, whether in transit or at rest.
Also, to ensure renters’ data privacy, Rently uses Amazon Cognito™ to protect and manage user information that is transmitted from mobile and web applications.
Rently remains vigilant about emerging data privacy risks and maintains the following industry-recognized security certifications:
- ISO/IEC 27001:2013 Certification which establishes policies and procedures related to the legal, physical, and technical control of information.
- ISO/IEC 27701:2019 Privacy system for managing personal data and ensuring a strong technical integration point between data security and data privacy.
- SOC2 (Types 1&2), a rigorous audit that ensures the highest level of operational security controls in place to safeguard user and operator data.
2. A Secure App Makes Self-Guided Tours Safe
According to Zillow (2022 Report), 74% of renters now search for properties online using a mobile device.
When it comes to mobile property searches, renters deserve to see accurate property information and enjoy a safe user experience.
The Rently Tours App offers renters access to verified property listings and the opportunity to create a secure Rently account from their mobile device.
Renters can safely download our app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Then, they can quickly and securely create an account to schedule tours on our proprietary ILS, Rently Listings.
Rently Listings receives 10 million visits and activates 3 million self-guided tours each year. More importantly, all properties listed are 100% real!
We carefully verify every property management company that lists on our site, and provide the ability for managers to watermark their property photos with their name and contact info. This safeguard provides renters with peace of mind knowing that the listing has not been reposted by a scammer and the property is really available.
For further protection, our listing site warns renters that Rently-verified properties do not appear on Facebook or Craigslist. If they see a Rently property listing on these sites, renters should be aware that they are fake listings.
In addition to providing renters with verified property listings, Rently helps to secure the mobile property search experience itself. By using mobile device verification, Rently takes steps to protect renters from having their information be used to set up a Rently account without their knowledge or permission. If an app user wishes to create a Rently account, they receive an SMS message to their phone with a code to enter. This ensures that no one can create a Rently account using a phone number that is not theirs and then use that account for transactions.
Once a renter’s phone number has been verified and used to set up an account, Rently activates an industry-leading fraud prevention system to monitor and protect a renter’s phone number from being hijacked by a foreign network in an account takeover attempt.
Later, once a renter has securely created an account, the Rently Tours App requires strong passwords to protect renter accounts.
3. Verified Accounts Make Self-Guided Tours Safe
The Rently Tours app offers renters the opportunity to securely view verified property listings.
However, in order to actually schedule self-guided tours and interact with property managers directly, renters must also VERIFY their accounts. This, again, protects renters from having scammers engage in online activity on their behalf, without their knowledge.
To verify their accounts, renters are asked to provide their email, phone number, a government-issued photo ID, and a selfie photo. Rently uses an industry-leading ID verification software to run photos through very specific verification criteria, including:
– Selfie “liveness” check
– Selfie-to-ID portrait comparison
– Matching government ID number across different accounts
– Matching ID details from the front and back barcode of the ID
– Check for possibility of ID fabrication
If any one of these photo verification criteria are not met, Rently won’t verify the account. If the criteria is met, the account is activated with ongoing security.
Renters with verified accounts can then take the next steps to securely schedule and pay for self-guided tours.
Rently uses an industry-leading payment processor to validate a renter’s credit card information. From within their secure and verified account, renters are asked to make a small fee payment to validate the card. Thereafter, renters can confidently purchase tours, knowing that their financial information is safe.
Rently’s secure account verification system is only the start to providing renters with world-class security.
Rently continues to protect renters from malicious online threats by using an “always on” fraud detection system to take immediate action against suspicious behaviors, such as excessive tour scheduling, unfamiliar users sharing one device, disposable email domains, and foreign device signals.
Thanks to these ongoing efforts, Rently has reduced reported rental scams by 30% since the beginning of 2023!
4. Rently Secures Onsite Tours
Above, we see the extensive steps that Rently takes to protect renters during the online part of their self-guided touring experience. Not surprisingly, Rently takes extensive steps to also make the onsite experience safe for renters.
Rently encourages all property managers to display onsite signage with the name and contact information of the property management company. We encourage renters to pay attention to any special scam warnings displayed at a property.
After a renter has confirmed that they have arrived at the right property, Rently continues to protect them with a few onsite screening steps to confirm that no stranger is taking the tour in their place.
Upon arrival for their self tour, renters will see a screen on their Rently Tours App called “Safeguard Against Scams” with 3 detailed questions about the property they wish to tour. The information provided to renters on this screen should confirm information they already know. If their information does not match, renters are alerted that they are being scammed by a fake property manager.
If the property information is correct, the tour continues with additional security screenings.
Renters are then asked to upload a live selfie photo to their Rently account via our app or a web link. Rently matches this live onsite selfie photo to their existing account photo (using facial recognition technology). Similarly, prospects’ phone numbers are verified upfront and later matched to the device used by the touring renter. These cross-checks ensure that the person who scheduled the tour is the same as the person taking the tour. This protects a renter from impersonation.
Renters are also politely asked to temporarily turn off any VPN feature on their mobile device that may be hiding their actual location. This prevents property access codes from being sent to devices that are not physically onsite.
If the photos or phone numbers do not match, or a renter’s onsite presence cannot be verified, property access will be denied.
However, if a renter’s identity is confirmed, they continue to the final pre-tour security step.
At this point, in order to receive a property access code, an onsite renter is asked to enter a unique serial number visible on the smart lockbox or smart lock of the residence they are ready to tour. This code will unlock the door, and the renter can enjoy their tour.
5. Rently’s Secure Application Benefits Renters
Once a renter has completed their tour, Rently also offers them a secure process to apply to be a tenant.
The Rently Application pulls renter info from their pre-existing Rently account and pre-fills the application by up to 30%. As a result, renters only submit their already verified information once, reducing the possibility of errors. This saves renters time and ensures that the information in their application is accurate. Renters can review and track all of their applications via their secure account on the Rently Tours App.
Renters who use the Rently Application can also rest assured that their information is reviewed by trusted, third-party verifiers. Rently’s application utilizes an industry-leading income verification software, and an industry-specific credit scoring model from TransUnion™.
The Rently Application also saves renters money because one application (and fee) can be used for multiple homes under the same management company. Similarly, the Rently Application allows multiple roommates to apply with a single application, for a single fee.
Finally, the Rently Application creates a positive renter experience by not negatively impacting their credit history. It only requires a “soft pull” of a renter’s credit history, for a specific rental application. There is no record of the inquiry on their permanent credit report.
6. Rently Offers a World Class Security Team
Rently’s security specialists are active at every stage of the renter’s journey.
We are the only self-guided touring provider to offer renters 24/7 account fraud detection support from the start. In addition, our security specialists constantly monitor accounts and address issues flagged by our fraud detection and ID verification systems.
If a scam or security breach occurs, Rently has a clear and streamlined escalation process in place.
To date, Rently has successfully resolved the scam and fraud cases encountered or helped local law enforcement to do so.
Renter security is a top priority for Rently. We want renters to enjoy the freedom of self-guided touring, without worrying about data theft or onsite safety. Rently understands that managing user data is a serious, trusted responsibility. We are constantly updating our technology to combat fraud and protect renters from scams. Rently has taken every step possible to make sure that self-guided tours are safe and enjoyable for renters.