Rentals focus of scam

Published 9:06 am Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Ohio Attorney General recently warned consumers about potential rental scams. People have lost anywhere from $500 to $5,500 to people who steal real home rental listings and pass them off their own.

This is particularly scary considering the prevalence of online marketplaces like Craigslist, which have become the go-to sites for people in search of everything from vehicles, employment, furniture and even homes.

According to the attorney general, in a typical rental scam, a con artist steals information from a legitimate real estate listing and reposts it as a place for rent on Craigslist or another website. Using information pulled from the legitimate listing, the scammer will list the property’s address and photos of the place.

The advertised rent is often low, and the potential renter is told to send a few hundred dollars or more to secure the rental. Typically the payment must be sent via wire transfer or prepaid money card. Once the money is sent, it is nearly impossible to track or to recover.

To avoid these types of scams, the AG recommends the following tips:

• Be skeptical of ads offering below-market rates on houses or apartments;

• Search your county auditor’s website for a record of who owns the property. Be aware that scam artists may pretend to be the true owner;

• Don’t trust potential “landlords” or property owners who say they had to leave the country quickly for business or missionary work.

• Don’t send money until you’ve had a face-to-face transaction, including actually viewing the property;

• Beware of requests for wire transfers or prepaid money cards as payment methods. These are preferred methods for scammers, because once the money is sent it is nearly impossible to recover.

• Copy and paste an image from an online listing into a search engine to determine if it has appeared elsewhere online.

If you feel you have been the victim of a rental scam or any other consumer fraud, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515.