Self-Guided Rental Tours: Safety, Security, and Scams

February 18, 2024

Between COVID-19 and the rise of younger renters hitting the rental market, self-guided tours, or “self-showings,” have become a very popular way to tour rental properties. When it comes to self-guided tours, there are many concerns among property managers about safety measures, how to make sure properties are kept secure, and how to make sure prospective renters are kept safe from any potential scams. 

Showdigs is the only property management software to protect against scammers and fake listings

Let’s take a look at what a self-showing scam could look like, how you can protect against potential scams, and what you can do to make the property as secure as possible.

What would a self-guided tour scam look like?

Self-showing scams happen when there aren’t enough safety measures in place. Even with lockboxes and one-time-use codes that expire after an hour, scammers have figured out a way to still make money off of prospective renters that are desperate for a good deal, or even just a place to live. 

In June of 2020, Tonya Smith was desperately looking for a place for her and her kids to live in Kansas City, Missouri. She was thrilled when she found a home in a good location for a great price, and immediately contacted who she believed was the listing owner. This “landlord” told her that he was unable to show the place himself, as he was in Florida, but he was able to send her the lockbox code so she could tour the property herself. 

Smith got the code, self-toured the property and loved it, but things started to seem fishy when the scammer wanted $1,600 (first and last month’s rent) wired to him via Bitcoin before he sent her the lease. Unfortunately, she sent him the money and, after, he requested an additional $650 to remove the lockbox. That’s when it clicked and Smith realized she had been scammed.

So, how did this happen? How was the scammer able to access the one-time-use codes for the lockbox? The same way a lot of scammers do it: he signed up for a self-guided tour, most likely used a stolen credit card, and was given the code to the lockbox that he then provided to unknowing prospects.

As a property manager or landlord, how can you maximize showing availability with self-guided tours, while also protecting the property and prospective renters from scams?

How to mitigate the risk of self-guided tour scams

Not all self-showing technology is equally secure. Rently, Tenant Turner, and Showmojo are all compatible with lockboxes (like CodeBox) and offer similar levels of security: pre-screening questions, credit card used to verify, and one-time-use codes that expire after an hour. But as the story above reveals, scammers can, and will, find ways around these security measures. 

Enter Showdigs, the only self-showing platform that takes the identity-verification process one step further with the use of AI facial recognition technology. Once a prospective renter uploads photos of the front and back of their government-issued ID, they then use their front camera to scan their face, proving they are who they say they are by matching their face to their photo ID.

showdigs self-guided tours with facial recognition technology to protect against scams
Here's how the Showdigs' facial recognition technology works to prevent self-tour scams!

This verification process is sophisticated enough to scare away any potential scammers who won’t want to risk exposing their identity. 

Ways to make your rental property as secure as possible

Other than using advanced technology to secure the self-showing process, how else can you ensure that your property is as safe and secure as possible?

Routinely check up on the property between self-showings. At Showdigs, we recommend booking a vacant property check every 3-4 self-showings to make sure the property is properly locked up, still looks clean, and the lights/heat/AC aren’t left on for long periods of time. We’ll send a licensed real estate agent to check on the property in between tours to ensure that it’s the same as you’ve left it. This way, you can check the condition of your vacant properties without having to drive there, saving time and money.

Make sure your self-tour access instructions are as clear as possible, including the instructions for locking the property once the prospect is done with their self-guided tour.

Be available for any questions or concerns the prospective renter may have while they’re self-touring the property — especially when it comes to access issues. If you don’t have that kind of on-call availability, look for a self-showing solution that comes with real human customer support. Not only will it provide an even better experience for your prospect, but you can breathe a little easier knowing that your showing solution has your back. Showdigs offers support from our in-house Live Operations team free with each Showdigs subscription to ensure that our property managers and their prospective renters receive the highest quality of service. 

Keep self-showings under the radar. Showdigs does not publicly promote the tour as a self-showing, nor do we have a specific listing site that shows a list of properties that use self-showings. By keeping self-showings under the radar, this removes your properties as potential targets and helps protect against scammers.

Rental property scams are preventable 

As new real estate technologies become more sophisticated, so do scammers. We’ve combined cutting-edge AI facial recognition, ID collection, required pre-screening questions, an accurate running tour log, and one-time lockbox codes so you can rest easy knowing your self-showing properties are fully protected.

Did we mention that unlimited self-showings are included with every Showdigs subscription at no extra cost? Bonus: our lead-friendly scheduling platform and support from our in-house Live Operations team makes scheduling self-showings a breeze for you and your leads. Use the tips above and check out Showdigs for the most secure self-showings available to protect yourself, your business, and your potential tenants from any and all possible scams. 

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