Verifying Rental Applicant Identities

In this digital age, pretending to be someone that you aren’t is all too easy. The number of reported identity theft victims rose to about 490,000 in 2015, up 47% over 2014 [source Marketwatch, “Identity Theft Complaints Soar”, Janaury 28, 2016]. Were someone to successfully move into your rental property under the guise of another identity, you could stand to lose thousands. When I was leading the largest tenant background screening company in the country, large REIT’s and property management companies would report from time to time that ‘gypsies and fraudsters’ were a big problem, informally meaning highly transient individuals who would gain access to an apartment under the guise of another identity, and stay until the very last minute, without ever paying anything — and then move on.

Bureaus use their extensive data linking technology to match against their millions of records to return “identity header” information on their reports – it’s up to you to follow through.  Look for potential problem indicators such as different names used in the past, a different current address than the one reported to you, and expired or unissued Social Security #’s.  Follow up on every detail and ask open-ended questions such as “would any other names be associated with you?” rather than “are you divorced”?   Ask for detailed proof if you haven’t already, get copies of utility bills with the addresses and names, or more identity proof than a driver’s license.

“Potential Gotcha”:  One fact that many don’t understand is that the background report does not definitively say whether a Social Security # belongs to an individual, confirming his/her identity.  What the report can confirm with the Social Security Administration is whether (a) that SSN was either issued (b) does the issuance correlate to your applicant’s birth year and (c) Has the SSN expired/associated with a deceased person.

Rent Marketplace helps independent landlords and local property managers save time and money with our one-stop shop solution suite. With integrated online rental applications, tenant screening, state-specific leases and more, landlords can find and move in better residents faster, while going paperless.

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