Wallingford, CT (PressExposure) September 16, 2009 -- BBBs across the country have heard from victims who look in online classified ad Web sites for rental properties, wire money to a prospective landlord and turn up at the would-be rental property ready to move in, only to discover the home is already occupied â by the homeâs owners.
Consumers looking for rental properties are being targeted for similar scams perpetrated in online classified services such as Craigslist.
In a typical scenario, renters fall victim to the scam after responding to an online ad for a rental property listed at a very low price. They are then told to wire money â as much as $1,400 â as a deposit and subsequently receive keys to the rental home. When renters ask to see the property before putting down a deposit, the would-be landlords claim they are out of the country and cannot show the house.
The keys are phony, the supposed landlords are in fact scammers, and the renters end up losing their âdeposit,â as well as what looks like a great deal on a rental property.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti, says these exchanges are rife with red flags.
âWe cannot emphasize strongly enough that consumers should be wary of any transaction that requires them to send money by wire transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram.â
As a result of this scam, many shocked homeowners have received knocks at their doors by people who were planning to move into their new rental home. Often the real homeowners have their houses up for sale â not rent- and had photos posted online that scammers stole for their bogus listings.
The warning signs that a rental listing is phony:
- The landlord requires a substantial deposit before showing the home or handing over the keys. Donât pay any money before inspecting the home inside and out.
- The Landlord asks the renter to wire money through wire transfer companies. Money sent by wire transfer is almost impossible to retrieve, and once the con artists pick up the money there is little recourse â if any â for getting the âdepositâ money back.
- The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate through e-mail. Scammers posing as landlords say they are located outside the country for a job or missionary work. Donât believe it.
- The deal sounds too good to be true. Phony classified ads list rental properties at a very low price to lure victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
More information on protecting yourself from scams is available at http://www.bbb.org.