Online scams for rental listings on the rise

Posted at 5:55 PM, Jul 17, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-17 19:57:27-04

SALT LAKE CITY - Although not a new scam, realtors say they are hearing more stories of people getting swindled through bogus online rental listings.

"Something didn't feel right, it just threw up red flags for me,” said Lynnea Hamatake, who came across a rental listing that seemed too good to be true.

Hamatake recently sold her house and was looking for a rental. One ad she found on Craigslist seemed promising, but the online poster’s reply drew concern.

"He wouldn't be able to walk me through the house, since he was in West Africa, so I would just have to send the money and once he got the money he would send me the keys,” explains Hamatake.

Salt Lake Realtor Scott Robbins says housing scams are becoming more elaborate. A month ago scammers targeted one of his listings where they were actually able to find and use his seller’s name.

“So he was communicating with these potential renters with the name that looks like he is the seller,” says Robbins.

Robbins says he has seen three common threads in these scams: The house is vacant, the price is low and the seller is out of town.

“I think it’s just for us as consumers to just be more aware of what the potential problems are,” says Hamatake who eventually found a legitimate home to rent.

The Department of Commerce says the main thing to watch out for is if the supposed landlord is out of state or out of the country and cannot arrange a meeting to see the property. Also, a red flag would be if they request a wire money transfer. And finally, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.