Rental Scams: Internet A Boon To Con Artists


RENO, NV - If you were looking for a rental there's a lot about the following ad that would sound appealing.

A 3-bedroom, 2 bath, utilities included, pets allowed. $1,000 a month.

And we found the home in a Spanish Springs neighborhood.

Apparently as advertised, except it's for sale, not for rent. A short sale being handled by a local real estate agent who has nothing to do with the rental ad posted by a scam artist posing as the owner trying to rent the house from Florida where he's been transferred.

In his ad he's asking $800 dollars deposit. He's also asking for a lot of personal information.

"They want your information," says Tim Johnston of the Better Business Bureau. "They want some sort of security deposit or first month's rent up front before they'll give you anything."

Johnston has seen this scam before. In fact, it's a chronic, ongoing problem, one of a number of scams that only got worse with the expansion of the internet.

"These scams are going to continue to exist. The internet only gets more and more used by everyone and there's a lot of data out there that they use to take advantage of us."

We've shown you one example, but you'll find others on Craigslist and elsewhere.

It's likely the scammers are operating outside the country, doing their research on line.

Johnston says if you're looking for a rental you should do the same.

"If there's a property you're interested in search for it. Find out what information is out there. Is it currently being listed for sale by a local realtor or agency? See who the owners are. Does that name match up with whoever you're being contacted by? That information you can get through county records."

And its fairly easy to check these things out. Our viewer Googled some of the wording from the ad and found the same details used in other ads.

In this case, for instance, the supposed owner named the company that transferred him. No such company exists.

And the same names showed up in other ads.

Bottom line: Know who you're dealing with and look closely before you commit either money or information.

And, the old rule rarely fails: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.


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