North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Beware of “House for rent” online scam

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Our office has recently seen an increase in complaints from people who get ripped off when trying to rent a house.  Scammers are getting information on houses or apartments that have been listed for sale, posing as the homes’ owners, and then listing the properties for rent on websites such as Craigslist. 
 
When unsuspecting people reply to one of these ads, the scammer gives them information about the house or apartment and suggests that they drive by to take a look at it.  The prospective renter is told that he or she won’t be able to see the inside because the key is with the property owner in another country.  
 
The scammer then asks the renter to wire a deposit to them overseas.  Once consumers have wired their money, they learn that the house isn’t really available for rent.  The person interested in renting is out the money, and the actual homeowner or real estate agent has no idea that the house has been listed for rent.
 
In some cases, the fake landlord uses a real address near the property for rent to try to make the scam seem more believable.  Consumers only learn that the place isn’t really for rent after they’ve sent their money to the address.
 
  • To protect yourself from this and similar scams:
  • Be cautious when using web referral sites.
  • Never agree to wire money overseas in response to an item posted for rent or sale online.
  • Be careful about renting properties you haven’t been allowed to see.
  • Beware of anyone who wants you to pay a deposit on a rental property before you’ve reviewed and signed a lease.
 
If you’ve been the victim of this or a similar scam, report it to the website where you saw the property listed for rent.  Please also report it to Attorney General Roy Cooper’s Consumer Protection division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or at www.ncdoj.gov.