UNITED STATES—Rising rent costs and sparse housing can make it a tough market for renters out there. Many of us out of desperation will take any kind of housing we can get. Since landlords know how difficult it can be to find housing because of the high demand they are getting greedy. We should realize that we might not be making the best decisions when it comes to the most important information we need to protect. Out of desperation, future tenants are giving out their information to people who are possibly criminals.

Imagine this scenario: You go to start the application process for an apartment that you discovered. It’s in a pretty cool area not very far from your work so you’re thinking to yourself, “this is perfect!” As you approach the main office of these apartments, you realize that the landlord isn’t available for you to meet. As a matter of fact, the landlord evades any possible opportunity to meet you face to face. Instead, this landlord sends what appears to be a henchman to assist you in the application process.

You go through page after page signing on the dotted lines…

After this is all approved, this mysterious landlord demands that you send a copy of your driver’s license via text.

Nothing to worry about, right? Or does this scenario seem a little sketchy?

Victims of identity theft are born every day. Approximately 15 million United States residents have had their identities stolen. Of those 15 million, the losses totaled to more than $50 million. People who have succumbed to such a hardship describe it as being very difficult to recover from. One man described his experience to Canyon News:

“Within 24 hours of my wallet being lost 25 accounts had been open and maxed out in Las Vegas for luxury goods. Reporting it to the feds did nothing. Requests to have my social security and driver’s license number changed were denied.”

The penalties for fraud are not nearly as severe as what one might think. It’s a lack of a harsh penalty could be the reason why it has been such a popular crime to commit. The same man told me that during his fraud experience he learned that, “The only felony associated with the identity theft is usually forgery which can be caught on camera in stores. However, the security tapes are recorded over every 30 days and usually it takes that long to find out someone has stolen your identity, so the only evidence has been destroyed.”

Since identity theft is so prevalent, it’s better not to take any chances and protect yourself.

When it comes to applying for apartments, doing background research on the management behind various apartment units can be to your benefit.

After a falling out with my last apartment manager, I did a quick Google search. I discovered that the apartments I was renting from were mentioned in various social media platforms why people should not rent from there. The apartments I previously rented from appeared on a website called Do Not Rent. Within these sources many people stressed the main reason being the problematic apartment manager.

If the information cannot be found online (which should be a red flag) ask the current tenants.

If the next shady landlord comes to you asking for a picture of your driver’s license, ask for theirs. ID replication is easy, and it doesn’t take much to create a bunch of fake IDs to sell on the black market.